President López Obrador on Thursday formally ceded the leadership of the “fourth transformation” political project he initiated by handing over a symbolic “baton of command” to Claudia Sheinbaum, who will be the ruling Morena party’s candidate at next year’s presidential election.
Sheinbaum, mayor of Mexico City between December 2018 and last June, came out on top in polling to determine who would represent Morena and its allies at the June 2, 2024 election. Her victory was announced Wednesday night.
López Obrador handed over the bastón de mando to Sheinbaum at a ceremony held at a restaurant in the historic center of Mexico City. The president received a “baton of command” from an Indigenous leader shortly after he was sworn in on Dec. 1, 2018, but what he handed to the ex-mayor on Thursday was a different one.
According to a statement posted to López Obrador’s personal website on Thursday night, Sheinbaum is now the “new national coordinator of the defense of the transformation.”
The president claims that his government is carrying out a transformation as significant as those that occurred as a result of independence from Spain in the early 19th century, liberal reforms enacted in the 1850s and the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century.
Among the central features of the “fourth transformation” – a term that is also the current government’s self-anointed nickname – are a stated attitude of zero tolerance toward corruption and impunity, government austerity and support for Mexico’s most disadvantaged citizens.
After receiving the baton at an event attended by four of her five rivals for the Morena nomination as well as Morena governors and other party officials, Sheinbaum pledged to continue the “transformation” initiated by “President AMLO.”
Conforming to López Obrador’s oft-repeated philosophy, the ruling party’s new standard-bearer also pledged to never lie, steal or betray the people of Mexico.
As president, Sheinbaum said she would continue building a “fairer, more fraternal” Mexico that is “sovereign, free and democratic.”
“… Mexico belongs to everyone, but above all it belongs to the more than 8 million seniors who receive their pension every two months, to the hundreds of thousands of people who receive disability support payments, to the millions of young people that write and build the future, to the engineers and laborers who build trains, airports, refineries, solar plants, ports, dams and highways, to the teachers who teach with the new textbooks, … [and] to the health workers,” she said.
Sheinbaum also took the opportunity to attack Mexico’s opposition parties, three of which – the PAN, the PRI and the PRD – have banded together to form an alliance that will back a common candidate at next year’s presidential election. Those now in opposition never fulfilled their promises when they were in government and are “the living image of corruption,” she said.
Sheinbaum’s official designation as the new leader of the “transformation movement” came four days after Senator Xóchitl Gálvez was formally named as the coordinator of the three-party Broad Front for Mexico (FAM) opposition bloc.
Morena and the FAM are not currently referring to their presidential contenders as candidates to avoid falling foul of electoral laws that stipulate when that designation can occur.
Gálvez, who defeated Senator Beatriz Paredes in polling to determine the FAM’s presumptive nominee, asserted that López Obrador was acting more like an “emperor” than a president by giving Sheinbaum the “baton of command.”
“Today is a historic day. Today is the day on which Andrés Manuel López Obrador, as if he were an emperor and not the president of a republic, will hand over the imperial scepter to Sheinbaum,” she said in a video posted to social media.
“It’s a circus, … an act of authoritarianism typical of the Mexico we want to leave behind,” Gálvez said.
When he leaves office, López Obrador will leave behind a country marked by “fear and violence,” she said.
“… The presidential sash is not a scepter that is inherited,” Gálvez added. “It’s the will and the hope of the entire country. That hope already changed hands and now belongs to us.”
López Obrador was asked earlier this week why he had decided to hand over a “baton of command” to Morena’s new standard bearer when such an object is a “representation of the entire citizenry, not one political party.”
“Look, it’s a way of passing on a responsibility that I’ve had to attend to as the leader of a movement of transformation. That’s what the baton symbolizes,” he responded.
“Above all, it’s a symbol of Indigenous communities, the poorest people of this country and it’s about handing over that symbol to he or she who must lead the transformation, provide continuity to what for us is essential – helping the poor and helping the Indigenous people.”