Times Standard (Eureka)

Could scientist be Mexico’s next leader?

- By Christophe­r Sherman and E. Eduardo Castillo

MEXICO CITY >> Mexico is a year away from electing its next head of state and the potential candidate getting the most attention is an environmen­tal scientist who might become the first female leader of Latin America’s second-largest economy.

One poll shows Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum nearly 20 points ahead of her closest rival in their ruling party.

A globally recognized scientist, Sheinbaum, 60, shares the leftist ideals of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. In an interview with The Associated Press Sheinbaum, like López Obrador, blamed the neoliberal economic policies of past presidents for exacerbati­ng inequities.

But the leaders diverge on their approach.

López Obrador has sought to create jobs regardless of their environmen­tal consequenc­es, dedicating resources to propping up Mexico’s stateowned oil company before supporting a few projects by American renewablee­nergy companies. In contrast, Sheinbaum holds a PhD in engineerin­g, served on the Intergover­nmental Panel on Climate Change that won a shared Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, and pledges to commit Mexico to sustainabi­lity.

She emphasizes her belief in all scientific findings, in fields from the environmen­t to medicine.

“I believe in science,” she said. “I believe in technology to have a better life.”

López Obrador last year inaugurate­d a massive new oil refinery in his home state of Tabasco, saying that his government had decided to ignore “the siren calls ... that the oil era was over.”

Despite the refinery’s inaugurati­on, it has not started operation.

At the same time, López Obrador has passed laws putting private gas and renewable energy facilities last in line for power purchasing, behind government-owned plants that often burn dirty fuel oil. He has more recently applauded a new government­run solar facility in northern Mexico and celebrated Tesla’s decision to build a car manufactur­ing plant near Monterrey, moves seen as feeding his interests in fueling job growth and satisfying U.S. complaints about a lack of free trade.

Sheinbaum has said her belief in renewable energy is fundamenta­l.

“I think we have to start growing more in renewable energy and to go ahead with the electrific­ation of cars,” Sheinbaum said. “From now to the future, most of the energy has to be related to renewable energy.”

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