Mayor of Mexico City: “There is no need to change direction”


These few weeks have been terrible for the mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum: just as the capital brought one of the world’s worst Covid-19 epidemics under control, a metro viaduct collapsed in early May, killing 26 people.

Then, a month later, the opposition seized more than half of the city’s boroughs in the midterm elections, including Tlalpan, where Sheinbaum was mayor from 2015 to the end of 2017. The rout in the city capital was a blow to one of the biggest on the left. strongholds.

But Sheinbaum, 59, remains unfazed. “There is no need to change direction,” she told the Financial Times in an interview. “The president is very clear where he is going, and we are with him. “

Voters in Mexico City played a key role in President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s landslide victory in 2018, and nationwide gains in the June 6 vote brought the coalition to power in 17 of Mexico’s 32 states. However, the domination of the left over the capital for a quarter of a century ended after the loss of nine of Mexico’s 16 boroughs.

“We were surprised with parts of the results – we’ll have to think about it internally,” she said.

Sheinbaum, who is widely regarded as López Obrador’s favorite to succeed him in 2024, blamed the result on a “disinformation campaign” led by critics opposed to the government’s quest to replace neoliberal reforms with a focus on the fight against inequalities, corruption and putting the poor first.

She said the “terrible tragedy” of the metro – which a preliminary independent report said was due to construction faults – influenced the vote.

With a practiced air, Sheinbaum dismissed questions about whether she could become Mexico’s first woman president and vowed to recover from the electoral rout and put the capital back on its feet economically.

“I am very strong. I believe in my government and I believe in the transformation of my country,” she said. “Neoliberalism cannot come back to Mexico – it has done a lot of damage.”

Twenty-six people were killed when an elevated section of a metro track in Mexico City collapsed on a road © Hector Vivas / Getty

As chairman, López Obrador rocked business confidence with abrupt rule changes in the energy sector, which sparked a flood of lawsuits. It canceled large-scale, partly-built investments in a new Mexico City airport and brewery in the north of the country.

But Sheinbaum, who has a doctorate in climate engineering, endorsed the president’s energy plans, which focus on fossil fuels and seek to prioritize state-run hydropower plants over cheaper private solar and wind projects in with regard to renewable energies.

“We are going to build the largest solar power plant of any city in the world,” she said, referring to plans by the federal electric utility to install solar panels atop Mexico City’s wholesale food market this year. year.

With the pandemic easing after Mexico City recorded one of the largest excess death tolls of any city in the world, she hopes a variety of initiatives can now take off in earnest. These include improving transport links, offering community-wide computer programming courses, reorganizing a gritty industrial district that accounts for 1% of the national gross domestic product as a hub of innovation and fight against a water crisis.

Sheinbaum, a longtime scientist and leftist, cut his teeth two decades ago as environment secretary in the government of Mexico City, when López Obrador was the city’s mayor. She oversaw the Metrobus rapid transit project and the construction of a second story to an urban freeway while serving in her municipal government.

She highlighted resilient private investment and said her plan to make the city greener, more mobile and innovative remains on track.

Mexico City was named this month as the top spot for foreign investment in Latin America for 2021-2022 in an Americas Cities of the Future survey conducted by fDi Intelligence, a Financial Times company.

He revealed that Mexico City had received 353 foreign direct investment projects, the third highest total of any sites surveyed, and was among the top 10 cities in the Americas in terms of economic potential.

“It’s a recognition that the transformation underway in this country, unlike how it’s often described, means. . . that we are always open to investment and economic development, ”Sheinbaum said.

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