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Sheinbaum brings a message of economic calm to the middle class in northern Mexico

Morena’s presidential candidate schedules an intense campaign tour of Nuevo León, Coahuila and Durango, states traditionally resistant to the political left

Claudia Sheinbaum en campaña rumbo a elecciones 2024
Claudia Sheinbaum in Matamoros (State of Tamaulipas), this Tuesday.Cuartoscuro
Zedryk Raziel

Claudia Sheinbaum is visiting northern Mexico, where she has a message of economic calm for the region’s middle class. The presidential candidate of Mexico’s governing Morena party, along with the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico (PVEM) and the Labor Party (PT), has scheduled an intense campaign agenda running Wednesday through Sunday in the states of Nuevo León, Durango and Coahuila, historically complicated places for the political left. Coahuila has been governed by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) uninterruptedly for almost a century, and last year voters reaffirmed their support for the oldest party in Mexico. In Durango there was only one six-year pause in PRI’s rule, from 2016 to 2022, when a National Action Party (PAN) governor was in office. Nuevo León, a strong business bastion, has shown more openness to switching between the PRI and the PAN in the last two decades, and is currently governed by a politician from the Citizen’s Movement (MC), Samuel García.

Sheinbaum’s campaign tour will also include a visit to Tamaulipas, another state traditionally hostile to the left, at least until the 2022 election, when Morena took the governorship from the PAN. In that border state, the Morena candidate spoke on Tuesday about maintaining the government aid established by the national government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, but she also promised to support entrepreneurs and investors. “Just so all the businesspeople in this very important border area know: we are going to maintain all the support that the president has been giving in terms of lower taxes, equal fuel prices between the United States and Mexico; we are going to maintain that support in order to continue promoting development and investment in Tamaulipas,” she said in Reynosa, the state capital.

Sheinbaum later said in Matamoros that Morena’s philosophy is that there should be an equitable distribution of resources in society, but without attacking private property. The candidate explained that López Obrador’s slogan of “For the good of all, the poor come first” also includes “those at the top” and the middle class in the equation. Sheinbaum said that López Obrador’s economic management has allowed the reduction of inequality in favor of the poorest while also bringing growth to the country. “Not only have we helped those who have the least, reducing poverty and inequality, but the entire country is doing well. The currency, our peso, is the most appreciated currency of all in the world against the dollar. Who would have thought? Today there is more foreign investment in our country than in all of our history. Today there is economic growth, there is a decrease in poverty and inequality. That is, it is not only done out of humanity, but because it works.”

People gathered for Claudia Sheinbaum's rally in Matamoros, on March 19.
People gathered for Claudia Sheinbaum's rally in Matamoros, on March 19.Cuartoscuro

Sheinbaum’s tour of Nuevo León includes a visit to seven municipalities and a meeting with local entrepreneurs, evidencing the candidate’s interest in that state. Mario Delgado, coordinator of Morena’s presidential campaign, said that the tour of that state aims to “strengthen the presence” of Sheinbaum and promote her economic plan, which contemplates annual growth of 3% and controlled debt levels. “They always said that Nuevo León was off limits to Morena because the party does not support the business fabric. Well, with the economic results that our president can currently boast about and the proposal that Sheinbaum is making on economic matters, there is a lot to tell the people of Nuevo León: that the economy is doing better now than when the neoliberal governments of the PRI and the PAN were in power. And that is the goal of her presence this weekend in Nuevo León,” said Delgado.

In the 2018 presidential elections, López Obrador won by an overwhelming number of votes at the national level. In all the states of Mexico, except in Guanajuato, a PAN bastion, the Morena leader prevailed. However, the details of the vote show that in some states there was a crossover vote, that is, voters supported López Obrador for president and at the same time gave their vote to Congressional candidates from other parties. This voting trend was repeated more intensely in the 2021 midterm elections, when the ruling bloc (Morena, PVEM and PT) lost the majority it had won in Congress three years ago. At the next election in June, Morena will try to implement the so-called “plan C,” an electoral strategy with which the ruling coalition seeks to win once and for all a qualified majority in Congress — two thirds of seats —, which would allow the president to approve reforms to the Constitution without having to negotiate with the opposition.

This strategy must consider the profile of voters in Coahuila, Nuevo León and Durango. Coahuila has been a kind of dam against the Morena tide. At the 2023 state elections, the alliance of the PRI, PAN and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) won by two to one over Morena in the governorship race. As for the state assembly, the PRI coalition won two thirds of the seats. In Durango, at the 2022 elections, the PRI-PAN-PRD alliance placed a PRI politician, Esteban Villegas, in the governorship. In the races for mayor, the PRI coalition won in a majority of places. And in Nuevo León, in the 2021 elections for the governorship, Morena had proposed a candidate with a high probability of victory according to the polls, Clara Luz Flores, but a scandal involving her alleged ties to a sect called NXIVM derailed her aspirations, which benefited the MC candidate, Samuel García.

Claudia Sheinbaum with Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas (on her left) at the Monument to the Revolution, on March 18.
Claudia Sheinbaum with Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas (on her left) at the Monument to the Revolution, on March 18.Paola Garcia (Reuters)

The recent addition of the legendary leftist leader Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas to Sheinbaum’s campaign is, in fact, a nod to the enlightened and progressive middle class. Cárdenas, who is the son of former president Lázaro Cárdenas and founder of the PRD, has shown a deference for Sheinbaum that he has not shown to López Obrador, an old ally from whom he distanced himself due to differences over economic policy. Sheinbaum thus seeks to reinforce her image of moderation, even as López Obrador, in the twilight of his six-year term, is assuming positions of political radicalism. The contrast between the presidential candidate and her mentor has occurred almost naturally.

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