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Updated Jun 14, 2024, 2:05pm EDT
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Semafor Signals

How Mexico may change under Claudia Sheinbaum

Insights from Americas Quarterly, Project Syndicate, and The New Republic

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Mexico Presidency/Handout via Reuters
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The News

Mexico’s outgoing leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador – better known as AMLO – is pushing ahead with a set of sweeping constitutional reforms as he looks to cement his legacy before his protégé, President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum, takes office in October.

AMLO’s plans, which include replacing 1,600 Supreme Court judges with elected justices, allowing private fundraising for political campaigns, and scrapping various regulatory bodies, have spooked the markets after Sheinbaum won just shy of a supermajority in the elections earlier this month.

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Sheinbaum sought to reassure investors Monday by promising the country’s rule of law was not under threat, but critics fear she will follow in AMLO’s footsteps.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Critics worry Sheinbaum could be AMLO’s populist ‘puppet’

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Sources:  
The Elcano Royal Institute , The Financial Times , Project Syndicate

The immediate question facing Sheinbaum is whether she wants to forge a social-democratic path for Mexico or govern as AMLO’s populist “puppet,” a Latin America expert wrote for The Elcano Royal Institute. AMLO hopes to enact his controversial reforms in the one-month window between the newly-elected Congress taking office and the presidential handover— but Sheinbaum could make good on her promise for a public debate on judicial reform as a way of watering them down, he added. However, some analysts are skeptical, with one researcher telling the Financial Times that similar discussions in past forums and debates “in the end… aren’t really taken into account.” This would leave the US and the markets as the “last barriers to an authoritarian turn,” a columnist warned in Project Syndicate.

But so-called successors may ‘inevitably go their own way’

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Sources:  
The New Republic , Americas Quarterly

Casting Sheinbaum as AMLO’s puppet may be “another of those alarmist media myths that always turn out to be wrong,” author Francisco Goldman argued in The New Republic: So-called successors “inevitably go their own way,” and unlike AMLO, she is a politician of the twenty-first, rather than twentieth-century left, he added. Sheinbaum diverged from AMLO’s blueprint during her time as Mexico City’s mayor, a Mexican academic noted in Americas Quarterly. Her majority in Congress ultimately depends on the loyalty of coalition allies — and one remaining institutional constraint is the prospect of a recall after three years in office, which, given Mexico’s low turnout in past referendums, could see her removed by as few as 20 million votes.

Sheinbaum is a technocrat, rather than an autocrat

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Sources:  
The Washington Post , The Economist

Whereas AMLO loved a microphone, Sheinbaum is a “nerd rooted in her academic formation,” Mexican writer Jorge Zepeda Patterson told The Washington Post. Lacking ALMO’s charm, she may have little choice but to appeal to the public “based on results,” The Economist argued, and fiscal constraints could push her in the right direction.

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