Mexico’s new president is no pal of Palestine

It’s unlikely Claudia Sheinbaum will cut Mexico’s deep-seated links with Israel, writes Simón Rodríguez Porras [photo credit: Getty Images]

On June 2, centre-left academic and politician Claudia Sheinbaum won a resounding 59.76% of the vote in Mexico’s general election, putting her in charge of the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. 

The election was a referendum of sorts on the six-year administration of outgoing president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who continues to enjoy overwhelming support. Claudia Sheinbaum, co-founder of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party with López, positioned herself as a continuation of her predecessor, championing centre-left policies with a nationalist discourse. 

The final composition of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate will be known in the coming weeks and Sheinbaum may have a majority that’ll allow her party to change the constitution. But how will Claudia Sheinbaum respond to this enormous political capital, and in what direction will Mexico move?

One of the main unknowns is Mexico’s Palestine policy. Continuing the traditional Mexican stance of neutrality, the López Obrador government has been apathetic, even forgiving, of Israel’s genocide in Gaza than other centre-left governments in the region that have been openly critical or have even broken relations with Israel. 

López Obrador did request to join South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice but contradictorily did so by ratifying his neutrality. The Mexican government is still studying the possibility of recognising the Palestinian state. 

Claudia Sheinbaum’s bothsideism

Sheinbaum’s position does not satisfy Mexican organisations such as the Coordinating Committee for Solidarity with Palestine, which on June 3 said: “Claudia Sheinbaum makes it clear in a precise manner that there will be no change, only continuity. Of course, there will be positive aspects but some are unacceptable such as complicit neutrality in the face of genocide, forced expulsion and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.”

The week before the elections, pro-Palestinian activists clashed with the police in front of the Israeli embassy in Mexico City, while denouncing the genocide and demanding the severance of diplomatic relations.

In 2009, in the face of that year’s Israel’s aggression in Gaza, Sheinbaum wrote a letter to the newspaper La Jornada in which she stressed that “because of my Jewish background… I can only watch with horror the images of the Israeli state bombings in Gaza… No reason justifies the murder of Palestinian civilians.”

Ten years later, as head of government of the Mexican capital, the police under her command received Israeli training. When the city government organised a pro-Israeli exhibition in the subway and drew criticism, Sheinbaum’s administration and the Israeli embassy accused her critics of being “anti-Israel and antisemitic hate groups,” a typical slander.

Those who did use antisemitic speeches during the recent election campaign were Israel’s closest allies on the Mexican right. Former President Vicente Fox questioned whether Sheinbaum was Mexican, saying she was a “Bulgarian Jew.” In this case, as the attacks came from allies of Israel, sectors of the Zionist right in Mexico downplayed them.

Mexico’s not-so-radical revolution

The Mexican government buys weapons and spying technologies from Israel, and the Mexican company CEMEX has participated in the construction of the Israeli apartheid wall.

All these links have been denounced in the recent student protests and encampment at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, an institution that under pressure announced it would review its cooperation agreements with Israel, and in the Zócalo, in the centre of the capital.

However, Sheinbaum’s milestone in a country where women won the right to vote only in 1953, is not minor.

“I do not arrive alone, we all arrive,” she assured in her celebration speech after winning the election. In this sense, there is also scepticism in the combative Mexican feminist movement, a country with a high rate of femicides and in which there are thousands of missing women, a situation that has generated large protests in which Sheinbaum has found herself on the side of law and order.

While Sheinbaum exhibits a more open stance on the subject than López Obrador, it remains to be seen if the new government will confront terrible situations such as the wave of femicides and a gender gap that shows an employment rate of 76% for men and 47% for women.

Sheinbaum’s program is the continuity of the so-called “fourth transformation”, and includes in her own words austerity, incentives for private investment and social assistance programs, a traditional foreign policy of non-intervention and a relationship of “friendship” with the US.

This in fact has meant cooperation to curb migration through Mexico to the northern neighbor. She will also continue to strengthen the National Guard, a militarised body created by López and continue to build the controversial Mayan train in the Yucatán peninsula, criticised by environmentalists and indigenous peoples for its trail of environmental destruction and destruction of sites of archaeological interest.

Like López Obrador, Sheinbaum has an excellent relationship with Mexico’s most powerful tycoon, Carlos Slim, which makes a mockery of accusations from the Mexican right that MORENA has a “communist” project.

López Obrador has bet on strengthening the military, whose record of human rights violations is appalling, to counter organised crime and trafficking in a drug war that has left tens of thousands of people missing in the last two decades. Now the military sector is advancing in its control of infrastructure projects and airports. Will Sheinbaum deepen or reverse this dangerous trend?

For the Mexican people in general, and for the Palestine solidarity movement in particular, effectively pressuring a government with the vocation of a tightrope walker will require to continue countering the power of the military and big capitalists like Slim with a powerful mobilisation in the streets.

Simón Rodríguez Porras is a Venezuelan Socialist and writer. He is the author of “Why did Chavismo fail?” and editor at

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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