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Who is Claudia Sheinbaum? – Mexico’s first female president

Who is Claudia Sheinbaum Mexico’s first female president

Claudia Sheinbaum, set to become the first female president in the country’s 200-year history, secured a landslide victory on Sunday, marking a significant milestone as the first woman and the first Jewish person elected as president of Mexico.

About Claudia Sheinbaum

Known as “la Doctora” for her distinguished academic background, Claudia Sheinbaum is a physicist with a doctorate in energy engineering. She is 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.

Sheinbaum captured around 60% of the vote in Mexico’s largest election, achieving a historic victory in a predominantly Catholic country with a deeply patriarchal culture.

Born in Mexico City in 1962, Sheinbaum’s maternal grandparents emigrated from Europe to escape the Holocaust. Sheinbaum would go on to serve her city in various capacities over the decades. While studying for her undergraduate degree at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), she became deeply involved in student politics, protesting against the privatization of public education. She then 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 her doctoral studies.

Sheinbaum entered politics in 2000, appointed as the environment secretary of Mexico City by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, then the head of the city’s government. After leaving the role in 2006, she dedicated herself to energy studies, joining the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and contributing to the team’s Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

In 2015, Sheinbaum became the first woman elected head of the Tlalpan district of Mexico City, serving until 2017. The following year, she was elected head of the city government—again, the first woman to do so—only stepping down in June 2023 to pursue her presidential run.

Claudia Sheinbaum and main opposition candidate, Gálvez
Claudia Sheinbaum and main opposition candidate, Gálvez

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 Election

Favored as the successor to outgoing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Sheinbaum has vowed to continue the path set by the populist leftist leader. However, her cool-tempered scientific approach offers a sharp contrast in style and a significant departure from Mexico’s male-dominated political landscape.

“I promise that I am not going to let you down,” Sheinbaum said, addressing supporters in Mexico City’s historic main plaza, the Zocalo.

According to the National Electoral Institute’s president, Sheinbaum secured between 58.3% and 60.7% of the vote, while opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez received between 26.6% and 28.6%, and Jorge Álvarez Máynez had between 9.9% and 10.8%. Sheinbaum’s Morena party is also projected to maintain its majorities in both chambers of Congress.

The official preliminary count put Sheinbaum 28 points ahead of Gálvez with nearly 50% of polling places reporting. With the two leading candidates being women, there was little doubt that Mexico would make history on Sunday.

“As I have said on other occasions, I do not arrive alone,” Sheinbaum remarked 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 of Jewish heritage to lead the overwhelmingly Catholic country. Her six-year term will begin on October 1, with Mexico’s constitution barring reelection.

A strong advocate for government involvement in addressing economic inequality and providing a robust social safety net, Sheinbaum aligns closely with the views of her political mentor. Despite a spirited challenge from Gálvez, the 61-year-old Sheinbaum consistently led in polls. This election marked the first time in Mexico’s history that the two main contenders were women.

“Of course, I congratulate Claudia Sheinbaum with all my respect, who ended up the winner by a wide margin,” López Obrador stated shortly after the electoral announcement. “She is going to be Mexico’s first female president in 200 years.”

Fernando Fernández, a 28-year-old chef, expressed his support for Sheinbaum, citing her connection to López Obrador and his hope that she will improve on issues he felt the outgoing president had not adequately addressed, such as gasoline prices, crime, and drug trafficking.

The main opposition candidate, Gálvez, a tech entrepreneur and former senator, had pledged a more aggressive stance against organized crime.

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