Claudia Sheinbaum‘s emphatic victory in Mexico’s presidential election earlier this month deepens the dominance of the country’s politics by the Morena movement.

Led by the populist, leftist outgoing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, Morena has transformed Mexican politics. AMLO calls his era “The Fourth Transformation,” likening it to previous seminal events in Mexican history, including its independence war and revolution.

AMLO’s political impact, Compact magazine columnist Juan David Rojas tells me in the latest episode of The Pivot podcast, has indeed been a “revolution.” The two other major competing parties, known by their acronyms PRI and PAN, have been eviscerated. Morena now not only controls the presidency for another six-year term, but it also has a supermajority in the lower house and close to one in the Senate.

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Yet, despite the decisive election results, Mexico’s political future remains uncertain. There is speculation that the term-limited AMLO could still call the shots even after his term ends this fall. And opinions of how Sheinbaum will actually rule — whether she’ll be more pragmatic or more ideological than AMLO — deeply diverge from one another.

AMLO’s Heterodox Politics

Sheinbaum not only has big shoes to fill, but the leader she succeeds is in many ways a heterodox political figure. AMLO is a leftist who cites biblical scripture, rails against neoliberalism, and yet has maintained fiscal austerity while expanding direct cash transfers. That has brought millions out of poverty, though the efficacy of untargeted welfare benefits is hotly debated.

Rojas situates AMLO within a “conservative leftist” tradition in Latin America that includes the likes of Evo Morales, the former president of Bolivia.

Regardless of how one characterizes AMLO ideologically, the political effect of his rule is clear: he leaves office deeply popular. Rojas says that most Mexicans view AMLO “as someone not only who is looking out for their material interests, but also shares their values.” He channels Mexican resentment of the deep inequality in their country, claims to jealously guard Mexican sovereignty, and is in some ways culturally conservative or traditional.

(In a recent interview on 60 Minutes, AMLO told Sharyn Alfonsi that Mexico doesn’t suffer from a drug epidemic on the scale of that of the United States “because we have customs, traditions, and we don’t have the problem of the disintegration of the family.”)

Sheinbaum’s Moment

Sheinbaum, Rojas says, is more postmodern when it comes to social issues. A non-religious person of Jewish heritage, she is unlikely to quote the Bible much, but she has a long, political fealty to AMLO — and that relationship will endure.

Yet it’s unclear how exactly Sheinbaum will govern as president. Rojas says her appointments to key portfolios, including the economy and foreign affairs, will indicate as to whether she will push for continuity or more pragmatism. Her record as mayor of Mexico City was a mixed bag, with some failures in managing the subway system and notable successes in digitizing public services.

Some observers fear that even before Sheinbaum comes to power, AMLO and the Morena-dominated Congress could eliminate vital checks and balances in the system, deepening one-party dominance and weakening Mexican democracy.

Sheinbaum will come to power with a strong mandate and even stronger de jure authority. How she rules over the next six years will have profound effects on Mexico’s 130 million people, but is likely to also influence the U.S. economy and politics, as migration remains a top election issue and investors evaluate Mexico as a nearshoring destination.

Episode Description

Juan David Rojas of Compact magazine and host Arif Rafiq discuss the historic victory of Claudia Sheinbaum in this month’s Mexican general elections. They take a deep dive into the record of her mentor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, and explore his heterodox, anti-neoliberal politics. They also assess what the future holds for Morena and Mexico under the leadership of Claudia Sheinbaum.

Guest Bio

Juan David Rojas is a Miami-based Compact columnist, covering the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. He is also a contributor to American Affairs. Rojas provides advice and analysis on political, economic, foreign policy, energy, and security topics in Latin America. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Further Reading

Arif Rafiq is the editor of Globely News. Rafiq has contributed commentary and analysis on global issues for publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, the New York Times, and POLITICO Magazine.

He has appeared on numerous broadcast outlets, including Al Jazeera English, the BBC World Service, CNN International, and National Public Radio.

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