Mexico will hold its next presidential election on June 2, 2024, and 99% of the country’s new president will be a woman for the first time. This became clear after the ruling MORENA party chose Claudia Sheinbaum as its candidate and the candidate of the right-wing opposition was Xochitl Galvez. The case of two women vying for the presidency is a historic event for the country, and could have been a triumph of gender equality. But it has been overshadowed by the political component of the election, which will be the most colorful and momentous clash between anti-American leftist forces and those who favor maintaining deep integration and even dependence on the United States. The presidential race is already gaining momentum against the background of the fact that the incumbent leftist president Lopez Obrador cannot be re-elected for a new term in 2024, because the country limits the stay in the main post to one term of 6 years. Under him, U.S.-Mexico relations have become quite crisis-ridden, and that’s why the stakes in the election are very high.
In the end, MORENA nominated the current mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, who was born in Mexico but her parents emigrated from Lithuania and Bulgaria in the 1920s and 40s. Because of her ancestral origins, she has even faced a campaign of anti-Semitic disinformation on social media that falsely claimed she was born in Bulgaria and “is a Bulgarian Jew who has nothing to do with Mexico”. If the left wins again, Sheinbaum could become the first woman and Jew to lead Mexico. In addition, Claudia Sheinbaum, 61, is a physicist with a doctorate in environmental engineering. She studied physics and energy in Mexico before earning her doctorate at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Sheinbaum has always been a protégé of Manuel López Obrador and built her political career under his tutelage, from the beginning being the party’s favorite to succeed the current president. After entering politics, she became the top environmental official on the future president’s team when he was mayor of Mexico City. The connection is believed to give her a decisive advantage in next year’s elections, thanks to Obrador’s high approval ratings. However, her career has moved far from trouble-free. When Sheinbaum herself was elected mayor of the capital in 2018, she made public transportation and environmental issues her top priorities, but soon became the target of criticism for catastrophic failures in the city’s transportation system, including the collapse of a subway overpass that killed 26 people. Sheinbaum also had to uphold many of López Obrador’s unpopular decisions as part of party discipline, such as those related to his policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, she was able to sell Obrador on many decisions that she herself considered correct and progressive, among them the decision to systematically develop green energy in Mexico. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that she holds no less leftist views than López Obrador and intends to continue his policy of gradual nationalization of Mexico’s energy sector.
There is also a well-established view that despite his formal role as president, Sheinbaum will remain No. 2 after Obrador, who will retain all his influence and be the de facto leader of the country for another 6 years. In recent months, López Obrador has insisted that he will have no influence when his term ends. At the time, he said he was “going to resign completely” and that he was “not a chief, not an indispensable leader and not a messiah”. But many political analysts say his influence will remain no matter which candidate wins in 2024. If Sheinbaum wins, there could be changes in certain policies, though the main thrust of his program would remain unchanged, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies at the research institute in Washington. If she is defeated, López Obrador will not go quietly into the background, retaining his huge following and control of the MORENA party, and will try to either re-elect himself or promote a new protege in 2030. In addition, his administration’s legacy of generous budget allocation and the army’s high role in social, security and economic affairs will be a factor in conserving the system for the next 6 years. Because of this, the right-wing candidate Galvez, if he wins, will not be able to quickly implement reforms that will be fiercely opposed by the state apparatus. It will also not be possible to quickly overcome the course, e.g., in the social, security and economic spheres.U.S. corporations are now getting fewer and fewer oil contracts in Mexico, and the White House is already threatening to impose retaliatory tariffs, which could simply collapse the entire North American free trade market. Mexico also wants to impose a ban on exports of GMO grain from the U.S., which would be a disaster for American farmers. One of the American-owned ports was recently nationalized and trade with Cuba is going through it to circumvent sanctions. Military cooperation has also been frozen, and in Washington, D.C., they accuse the Mexican authorities of authoritarianism and actively support the opposition.
The opposition nominee is also a very colorful person in the person of Senator Xochitl Galvez. She is 60 years old and, like Sheinbaum, is a professional engineer. Despite her right-wing program, she is a good choice to counter left-wing populists, because she has indigenous Indian roots and has had a difficult life path, escaping poverty and creating a business in the technology sector. Unlike her rival, who is bound by the strict obligations of public office, Galvez is a “free” senator who often rides around Mexico City on an electric bike and emphasizes her “simplicity” as the daughter of an Otomi father and a mestizo mother. She grew up in a small town about two hours from Mexico City, where there was no running water, and she spoke her father’s Otomi language from childhood. After receiving a scholarship to the National Autonomous University of Mexico, she became an engineer and founded a company that designs communications and energy networks for office buildings. After Vicente Fox won the presidential election in 2000, she was appointed head of the Presidential Office of National Institute of Indigenous Peoples and in 2018 was elected senator for the National Action Party. Lopez Obrador, seeing her as a major electoral threat, has repeatedly made her the target of verbal attacks, but this has only resulted in raising her profile across the country, although it has emphasized the influence of the president and his party across Mexico. He also accuses her of pandering to U.S. interests, and there is serious truth to that. Sheinbaum, for his part, promises to deal with Washington as an equal and not to bend to the will of the U.S. In the context of the U.S. fight with Russia and China, she, like Lopez Obrador, takes a neutral position and is not going to impose sanctions against these countries, but on the contrary is ready to strengthen cooperation with China to the detriment of U.S. interests. Despite the almost perfect choice of Galvez’s image in terms of political technology, Sheinbaum is confidently leading in the polls, taking advantage of the accumulated popular trust of her potential predecessor Obrador.
As the two female candidates point out weaknesses in each other’s campaigns, they share some similarities. While neither is explicitly feminist, both are socially progressive, have engineering degrees and say they would support widely popular anti-poverty programs. Both also support the de-criminalisation of abortion that occurred in September following a ruling by the nation’s Supreme Court, and in Galvez’s case, that position differs from that of her conservative party. And it shows well that Galvez is trying to copy many of the successful positions of the MORENA program, which brings short-term success, but is a bad strategy, because between the original and the copy, voters always choose the former. It is also important that all of Galvez’s efforts are overridden by the popularity of Obrador, who is rising above the campaign trail with his policy of Mexican autonomy and self-reliance, including oil export revenues. He also showed pluralism by ending the long-standing political tradition of Mexican presidents choosing their successors by “personal indication”, replacing that practice with nationwide polls of voters, a situation in which it no longer mattered that Sheinbaum was a near-unanimous choice.
Historically, political parties in Mexico have largely chosen their candidates through non-transparent means that did not involve discussion even at the level of their rank-and-file members. Obrador’s new selection process has changed this tradition, but elections can still be subject to the total fraud that has become the norm in the era dominated by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (IRP). Both the ruling MORENA party and a broad opposition coalition called the Broad Front for Mexico used opinion polls that carried a clear trail of fraud aimed at legitimising their own future victory and generating the desired public opinion. Because of this, the perception that not only Sheinbaum but also Galvez were predetermined to be the winners of the selection had nothing to do with the real views of Mexicans and was the result of similar manipulation. Next year’s general election, in which Mexicans will elect not only a president but also members of Congress, threatens to bring back the era of dominance by one party, which MORENA wants to become, taking the logical place of the IRP of the 20th century. Despite some setbacks, there are signs that this is already happening. In June, MORENA’s candidate won the gubernatorial election in Mexico State, the country’s most populous state, defeating the IRP candidate by a wide margin. This victory increased the number of states under MORENA’s control to 23 out of 32 states, up from 7 at the start of Obrador’s presidential term in 2018. Against this backdrop, it is of utmost importance to what extent the opposition will be able to resist the leftist populists in 2024 on their path to political monopoly.
And all this is taking place against the backdrop of Mexico’s increasing confrontation with the United States, where the former is trying to squeeze the most out of the migration crisis that has emerged on Washington’s southern borders and is causing a severe political crisis in America. Thus, President Lopez Obrador called the actions of the authorities in Texas to fight migrants inhumane and called on all Mexicans in the United States to vote en masse against politicians fighting against illegal immigrants. It is important that in the same Texas the majority of the population is already Hispanic. Relations between Mexico and the United States are deteriorating not only on the basis of Mexican migration, but also in military cooperation and the purchase of American agricultural products. In addition, Lopez Obrador recently nationalized a U.S.-owned port, and he is increasingly being compared to Hugo Chavez because he is actively pursuing cooperation with Cuba, Brazil, China and Russia. Washington is afraid to threaten Mexico with sanctions because there is a lot of U.S. business there, which will be nationalized in response. The work through NGOs through USAID has intensified, but they have now begun to be squeezed out of Mexico. But Mexico City itself is trying with great pleasure to feed on the crisis within the U.S. itself, and, relying on the huge Hispanic diaspora, to try to destabilize the situation in an already divided America.
Against this backdrop, a diplomatic war between Mexico and the U.S. is escalating, directly related to the upcoming June 2 elections. President Lopez Obrador accused the Biden administration of financing opposition forces through USAID, which sabotages the policy of the authorities, and demanded to stop such “investments” towards Mexico City. Mexico defiantly closed its airspace to U.S. reconnaissance planes and military drones, although the Pentagon insisted that they be allowed to follow the course of another balloon that flew from Asia to America. Lopez Obrador once again vowed to abandon military cooperation with the U.S. after leaked Pentagon documents revealed evidence of spying on the Mexican army and navy. The situation is also aggravated by the dispatch of 1,500 American soldiers to the border with Mexico to try to stop the flow of illegal immigrants. Mexico City is in no way helping Biden’s team to resolve the migration crisis, and promises to regard any attempts by the US to conduct a military operation against drug cartels in northern Mexico as an act of aggression. In the coming months, Mexico may impose an embargo on grain imports from the United States, which accounts for 90% of all grain grown in America. This is seen in Washington as a disaster for American farmers, and the future of the entire free trade zone in North America, which may not survive the Biden era, is in question. Lopez Obrador, as was mentioned earlier, is increasingly being compared to Hugo Chavez, who is turning Mexico into a new Venezuela, only now at the very borders of the United States. Mexico under him began to focus on cooperation with China and Russia, and judging by the exorbitant ratings of the Mexican president at 72%, these anti-American outbursts resonate with the population of 130 million people. Sheinbaum, after his victory, wants to continue “separating” Mexico from the U.S., following Obrador’s policy, and the 2024 election is the last chance for the U.S. to try to solve this problem electorally. But these chances are very elusive, and it no longer looks fantastic to have a U.S. military intervention in Mexico, which many forces in Washington are calling for. In this case, the countries may find themselves in direct confrontation at all, and for this reason, the future elections in Mexico are one of the most important issues in the electoral field.