Mexico’s next president faces 3 pressing challenges: money, dialogue and the US election

Jun 3, 2024, 9:07 PM

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s newly elected president, the first woman to win the job, faces a long list of challenges, including persistent cartel violence, a deeply divided country, cash-straitened social programs and the long shadow of her mentor, outgoing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

But for some analysts it mostly comes down to three things: money, dialogue and the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.

Claudia Sheinbaum, who begins her six-year presidential term Oct. 1, has four months ahead of her to define her administration’s agenda. During this time, López Obrador is expected to continue delivering his daily morning press briefings as he tries to solidify his legacy.

The coexistence might be far from easy: He has divided society; she says she wants to unite it. He is a leader of the masses; she is an academic and a scientist.

López Obrador has said he will not interfere with his protege’s administration. “I do not aspire to be a ‘moral leader,’ a ‘maximum boss,’ a ‘caudillo,’” he said Monday.

He has insisted that once his presidency is over, he is going to “talk with the trees, live with the birds.” Yet, it was he who announced Monday that current Treasury Secretary Rogelio Ramírez de la O would remain in his post through the next administration in a bid to avoid a market meltdown.

The balance between continuity and change will not be simple.

A top economic challenge will be whether Sheinbaum will have the money to continue her predecessor’s popular social programs, considering the government has a big deficit of almost 6% that the Treasury has vowed to reduce.

“There needs to be fiscal reform,” said Isidro Morales, an economics and international relations expert. Otherwise, he warns, citing Mexico’s decreasing oil income as one problem, “Claudia is going to have her hands tied.”

Mexico’s state-owned oil company Pemex is López Obrador’s most fervent symbol of nationalism, but it continues to lose money and oil is far from the primary revenue stream it once was. Yet, it is a red line for Sheinbaum who, despite being a climate scientist who wants to move into clean energy, closed her campaign last week before gigantic banners of support from oil industry workers.

Mexico’s presidential transition also happens to fall right into the heart of the U.S. presidential campaign.

“Mexico’s most important election is taking place on Nov. 5,” said Carlos A. Pérez Ricart, a professor at Mexican public research center CIDE, referring to the U.S. presidential election.

President Joe Biden’s reelection or the return to power of former President Donald Trump will be “the real variable that will change scenarios,” Pérez Ricard said. The outcome could not only influence security, trade and immigration policies, but also many internal decisions about the role of Mexico’s army, he said.

Sheinbaum studied in the U.S., speaks English and understands that country’s politics, which would lead one to think there would be more understanding with Washington, but no one can control the Trump factor.

And when it comes to immigration and security, Mexico’s new president is left only with the existing policies, which have only intermittently slowed migration to the U.S. border and failed to significantly lower Mexico’s persistent violence.

To confront Mexico’s increasing violence, analysts have said the country needs to strengthen civilian police and prosecutor’s offices. Instead, López Obrador opted for militarizing the country, giving the armed forces unprecedented power in a bevy of civilian areas — from domestic security to construction — with the risks to human rights and accountability that implies.

It remains unclear what Sheinbaum will want from the military, what she could change or what kind of pressure the military could bring to bear on her.

Politically, her Morena party’s congressional majority could be a double-edged sword.

For the approximately 40% of voters who did not support her, it will be seen as dangerous because if preliminary results hold up, she could have enough lawmakers to amend the constitution. López Obrador has floated a host of controversial constitutional proposals, including eliminating institutions that provide checks on executive power and on subjecting judges to public elections.

It will be key that Mexico has a strong government that unquestionably defends the separation of powers, Pérez Ricart said.

Political scientist Luis Miguel Pérez Juárez, however, argues that Sunday’s strong victory gives Sheinbaum “enormous power” for independent action, including from the party López Obrador created.

“She will not have to go to anyone,” he said.


Follow AP’s coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america.


Associated Press

India and US vow to boost defense, trade ties in first high-level US visit since Modi’s election win

NEW DELHI (AP) — India and the United States on Monday pledged to boost defense and technology cooperation and remove long-standing barriers to bilateral strategic trade, following a meeting between the national security advisers of both countries. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is on a two-day visit to the Indian capital, New Delhi, the first […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

US suspends inspections of avocados, mangoes in Mexico’s Michoacan state over security concerns

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The United States government has suspended inspections of avocados and mangoes in the Mexican state of Michoacan due to security concerns, an official said Monday. A U.S. government spokesperson, whose name could not be used under agency policy, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Former GOP Rep. George Nethercutt, who defeated House Speaker Tom Foley in 1994, dies at 79

SEATTLE (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt, who was a Spokane lawyer with little political experience when he ousted Democratic Speaker of the House Tom Foley as part of a stunning GOP wave that shifted national politics to the right in 1994, has died. He was 79. Nethercutt died Friday near Denver of progressive […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

Central African Republic faces increased rebel activity and spillover from Sudan war, UN experts say

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Activities of armed groups in the volatile Central African Republic have increased, complicating a security landscape that has seen a spillover of the conflict in neighboring Sudan, U.N. experts warn in a new report. The panel of experts cite confirmed reports of air raids by the Sudanese military around border areas […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

A judge temporarily blocks Iowa law that allows authorities to charge people facing deportation

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked an Iowa law that allowed law enforcement in the state to file criminal charges against people with outstanding deportation orders or who previously had been denied entry to the U.S. U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Locher issued a preliminary injunction because he said […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear a challenge to governor’s 400-year school funding veto

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear a challenge to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ partial veto that locked in a school funding increase for the next 400 years, the justices announced Monday. The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Litigation Center filed a lawsuit in April arguing the governor exceeded his authority. The group […]

12 hours ago

Mexico’s next president faces 3 pressing challenges: money, dialogue and the US election