Claudia Sheinbaum Mexico’s first (female) president in 200 years

Mexico, country of southern North America and the third largest country in Latin America, after Brazil and Argentina. Mexico is one of the chief economic and political forces in Latin America. It has a dynamic industrial base, vast mineral resources, a wide-ranging service sector, and the world’s largest population of Spanish speakers—about two and a half times that of Spain or Colombia. As its official name suggests, the Estados Unidos Mexicanos (United Mexican States) incorporates 31 socially and physically diverse states and the Federal District. More than half of the Mexican people live in the centre of the country, whereas vast areas of the arid north and the tropical south are sparsely settled. The constitution of 1917, which has been amended several times, guarantees personal freedoms and civil liberties and also establishes economic and political principles for the country. The legislative branch is divided into an upper house, the Senate, and a lower house, the Chamber of Deputies. Senators serve six-year terms and deputies’ three-year terms; members of the legislature cannot be re-elected for the immediately succeeding term. Three-fifths of the deputies are elected directly by popular vote, while the remainder are selected in proportion to the votes received by political parties in each of five large electoral regions. Popularly elected and limited to one six-year term, the president is empowered to select a cabinet, the attorney general, diplomats, high-ranking military officers, and Supreme Court justices (who serve life terms). The president also has the right to issue reglamentos (executive decrees) that have the effect of law.

This year, Mexico’s presidential winner Claudia Sheinbaum became the first female president in the country’s 200-year history. Sheinbaum, the favoured successor of outgoing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, vowed to continue on the direction set by the populist leftist leader. But the cool-tempered scientist offers a sharp contrast in style — and a break with Mexico’s male-dominated political culture.“ I promise that I am not going to let you down,” Sheinbaum said, greeting supports in Mexico City’s colonial-era main plaza, the Zocalo. The National Electoral Institute’s president said Sheinbaum had between 58.3% and 60.7% of the vote, while opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez had between 26.6% and 28.6% and Jorge Álvarez Máynez had between 9.9% and 10.8% of the vote. Sheinbaum’s Morena party was also projected to hold its majorities in both chambers of Congress. This was the largest election in Mexico’s history, with more than 98 million citizens registered to vote. Nearly 20,000 elected positions were being contested, including the presidency, both chambers of Congress and thousands of local seats.

Known as “la Doctora” for her glittering academic credentials, Claudia Sheinbaum is a physicist with a doctorate in energy engineering, the former mayor of one of the world’s most populous cities, and was part of the United Nations panel of climate scientists that received a Nobel Peace Prize.After her maternal grandparents emigrated from Europe to escape the Holocaust, Sheinbaum was born in Mexico City in 1962 – a city she would go on to serve in various roles across decades.

While studying for her undergraduate degree at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), she became immersed in student politics, protesting against the privatization of public education. After graduating, she studied energy engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, where she became fluent in English and earned a Master’s degree, before returning to UNAM for doctoral studies. Both she and her brother, Alex, followed their parents into science and became physicists. Scheinbaum Pardo earned a physics degree from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in 1989 before carrying out a PhD in energy engineering at UNAM.

Her PhD research, which focused on energy consumption in Mexico and other countries, was mostly carried out at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US. After graduating in 1995, Scheinbaum Pardo joined UNAM’s Institute for Engineering where she worked on the transition to renewable energy sources. Sheinbaum entered politics in 2000, when she was appointed environment secretary of Mexico City by Obrador, then the head of the city’s government.After leaving the role in 2006, Sheinbaum committed herself to the study of energy, joining the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).Scheinbaum Pardo co-authored sections of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fourth assessment report, which warned that the warming of the climate is “unequivocal”. For their work on climate change, the 2000 members of the IPCC shared half the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former US vice-president Al Gore.

In 2015, she became the first woman elected head of the Tlalpan district of Mexico City, serving until 2017.In that role, she did a lot for the environment, including electrifying the metropolis’s bus fleet, starting construction of a photovoltaic plant to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and boosting the conurbation’s bicycle lanes.The next year, she was elected head of the government of the whole city – again, the first woman to do so – only stepping down in June 2023 to embark on her run for president. Sheinbaum has two children and one grandchild. Her partner, Jesús María Tarriba, whom she met at university while both were studying physics, is a financial risk specialist at the Bank of Mexico.

The climate scientist and former Mexico City mayor said that her two competitors had called her and conceded her victory. The official preliminary count put Sheinbaum 28 points ahead of Gálvez with nearly 50% of polling places reporting. The fact that the two leading candidates were women had left little doubt that Mexico would make history Sunday.“As I have said on other occasions, I do not arrive alone,” Sheinbaum said shortly after her victory was confirmed. “We all arrived, with our heroines who gave us our homeland, with our mothers, our daughters and our granddaughters.”Sheinbaum will also be the first person from a Jewish background to lead the overwhelmingly Catholic country. She will start her six-year term October. 1. Mexico’s constitution does not allow re-election.

The new President elected has said she believes the government has a strong role to play in addressing economic inequality and providing a sturdy social safety net, much like her political mentor. López Obrador’s anointed successor, the 61-year-old Sheinbaum consistently led in polls despite a spirited challenge from Gálvez. This was the first time in Mexico that the two main opponents were women.“Of course, I congratulate Claudia Sheinbaum with all my respect who ended up the winner by a wide margin,” López Obrador said shortly after the electoral authorities’ announcement. “She is going to be Mexico’s first (female) president in 200 years.” López Obrador won the presidency after two unsuccessful tries with 53.2% of the votes, in a three-way race where National Action took 22.3% and the Institutional Revolutionary Party took 16.5%.

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