The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

What Can We Expect from the First Woman President?

Jun 17, 2024

Claudia Sheinbaum was just elected as the first woman president in Mexico’s history. This is a step that has not yet been taken in the U.S. and is important in a country long known for machismo.

She won as the protégé of the predecessor t, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO. His popularity remains high after six years in office. AMLO was elected in 2018 as the candidate of a new party, MORENA. He won on a wave of disgust against the old parties, the PRI, the PAN, and the PRD. AMLO promised to take on corruption and to make some reforms to help the poor. But he never called on workers to mobilize to defend their own interests.

A few things did change. He made a show of moving against some very corrupt officials, and of living modestly himself, getting rid of the fancy presidential plane and opening the presidential palace as a public park, instead of his private mansion. He stopped privatizing everything to politically connected businesspeople. He increased the level of pensions for ordinary people—though these remain very low—and cut the pensions for ex-presidents of Mexico. He created 2,000 small local banks in rural areas to distribute these small pensions. He also raised the minimum wage—though this was barely enforced.

But AMLO could not address the population’s biggest problems. First of all, there are not nearly enough jobs. AMLO said it himself: millions of young people in the country have no jobs and are not in school. They are faced with the choice of leaving the country or getting involved in criminal activity. This massive pool of unemployed young people forms the recruiting ground for the cartels, who remain as strong as ever, creating rampant violence. The official numbers of murders have gone down—but there are lots of reports that the government has manipulated the numbers.

The violence in Mexico is not just driven by the cartels. While it is a real step that so many Mexicans were willing to vote for a woman to lead the country, violence against women remains as high as ever. Mexico has one of the highest rates of femicide (the killing of women) in the world. While the numbers are hard to pin down, since the murder of women is so often covered up, several studies indicate that the rate has been going up dramatically during AMLO’s time in office. At least 3,439 women were murdered in 2023.

And even though the official minimum wage went up, it is unenforced, and it is still very low. In real life, the wages for most people are still barely enough to survive.

And public services remain poor, or in many areas, non-existent. There are no hospitals at all for many miles surrounding most small towns. In the cities, the level of care available for all but the rich remains atrocious. Schools are similar, with few to no improvements in the level of education available for ordinary people.

Most of all, the country remains dominated by an extremely small, rich capitalist class that is tied hand and foot with the big companies and banks in the U.S. While AMLO made a small show of standing up to the U.S. about migrants passing through the country, in fact, he did almost everything the U.S. wanted, and tried to sell Mexico to U.S. companies as a low-wage alternative to China.

We can expect more of the same with Sheinbaum, who runs the same party, the same state apparatus.

There is a force in Mexico that could take on the problems of jobs, violence, low wages, and lack of services: the working class. Most Mexicans live in cities, and many work in giant factories linked to the U.S. This massive force of people is the only group that has the possibility and the interests to really address the problems facing Mexico’s population.