Mexico’s Sheinbaum designs a Cabinet of veteran politicians, with new ministry for science

Marcelo Ebrard and Alicia Bárcena will once again be part of the Mexican administration, while the president-elect is still to announce her picks for key portfolios, such as national security

Gabinete Claudia Sheinbaum
Claudia Sheinbaum, presents the first six members of her cabinet.Mónica González Islas
Carmen Morán Breña

The president-elect of Mexico, Claudia Sheinbaum, presented on Thursday some of the members of her government team, which will take office on October 1. These are men and women who will give continuity to the project initiated by her predecessor, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in his six-year term, which he promised to historically transform the country. But she has left her mark on the new Cabinet. Sheinbaum has created a new secretariat — as ministries are called in Mexico — of Science, Technology, Humanities and Innovation, a significant gesture towards a collective with which the current president had not maintained the best of relations. In addition, she has placed Alicia Bárcena, who will leave her post as foreign affairs secretary, at the head of the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources. Both Sheinbaum and Bárcena have extensive academic and administrative experience. The remainder of the Cabinet will soon be presented, including crucial portfolios such as Security, National Defense and the Navy, as well as Education and Health.

On the campaign trail, Sheinbaum promised to continue the policies of López Obrador, and this has been reflected in the appointment of Bárcena and Marcelo Ebrard, both of whom were foreign affairs secretaries under the president. Ebrard left that position to seek the presidential candidacy for the Morena party, but the internal contest was won by Sheinbaum, which strained relations between them for a time. Now he will be economy secretary, a key department for development with Mexico’s main trading partner, the United States. Diplomatic in nature, Ebrard must deal with the USMCA free trade agreement that has been renewed with the United States and Canada.

Another Cabinet pick is Rogelio Ramírez de la O, who will continue as finance secretary. This appointment had been announced prior by Sheinbaum in an effort to reassure the markets and recover the exchange rate of the Mexican peso, which was devalued after the elections. Julio Berdegué will be the agriculture secretary.

The creation of a ministry overseeing science, humanities, technology and innovation, which elevates the former Mexican Science Council, is the most significant decision of the president-elect. She herself is a scientist, with a degree in Physics and a doctorate in Environmental Engineering. This ministry is a declaration of intentions about her priorities and a way of healing the government’s wounds with the science sector. Likewise, the appointment of a person like Bárcena — who has a background in environmentalism and extensive political experience — as environmental secretary promises to give weight to one of the issues that has caused the most friction with the government. López Obrador has greatly criticized the “pseudo-environmentalists” who opposed his projects.

The Cabinet picks are political veterans who have worked closely with the president-elect, helping her draw up the electoral program. This is the case of Juan Ramón de la Fuente, who will be the foreign affairs secretary. A surgeon, he is well known to Mexicans, as he was once the rector of the prestigious National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He has served as Mexico’s representative to the U.N. and has to his credit “up to 20 Doctor Honoris Causa awards,” said Sheinbaum. With a moderate and negotiating character, he is the man who is commanding the transfer of powers between the current administration and the next.

Another woman, loyal to the López Obrador project and with a feminist profile, is Ernestina Godoy, who will now be the administration’s legal adviser, a position of maximum trust. Both Sheinbaum and Godoy worked together in Mexico City when the president-elect was the mayor and Godoy was the chief prosecutor for the capital.

Sheinbaum — who is announcing her Cabinet picks gradually — still needs to confirm who will lead the portfolios overseeing key areas such as citizen security, national defense and the Navy, which play an essential role in Mexico’s fight against violence. Omar García Harfuch has been floated to oversee security: when Sheinbaum was the mayor of Mexico City, he was her secretary of citizen security.

For the Secretariat of National Defense and Secretariat of the Navy, Sheinbaum is expected to pick two military officers. While it is not mandatory, traditionally the military has been in charge of these portfolios. It would be a dramatic move if Sheinbaum opted to put a civilian in charge of the Army for the first time.

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