MEXICO CITY—A street-food salesgirl who became a tech entrepreneur and senator is shaking up the contest to succeed Mexico’s popular president and offering many voters the first real alternative to her country’s dominant party.
Xóchitl Gálvez, 60, helped her family as a girl by selling tamales on the street. Today the straight-talking opposition senator is a long shot against Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s Morena party, which holds Congress and 22 of Mexico’s 32 states.
Despite her slim chances, Gálvez seems to have shaken the President so badly that he’s been insulting her almost daily during his morning briefings. The opposition senator comfortably sits in the national spotlight nearly a year ahead of the June 2, 2024 national election.
“She fills a space that was completely empty,” said Roy Campos, president of polling firm Mitofsky Group. “All of the opposition population starts to see her and it generates hope.”
Next year’s election is López Obrador’s chance to show if he has built a political movement that can outlast his charismatic leadership. Whoever his successor is, they will have to tackle persistently high levels of violence, heavily armed drug cartels and migration across the nearly 2,000-mile border with the United States.
Campos’s group has not conducted an opposition candidate survey but that doesn’t prevent him from feeling comfortable declaring Gálvez a “political phenomenon.”
A political independent who initially set her sights on competing to be Mexico City mayor and often travels the sprawling capital on a bicycle, Gálvez entered the Senate chamber in December dressed as a dinosaur, an allusion to party leaders known for their archaic, unmovable practices. At the time, López Obrador had proposed electoral reforms that critics said would weaken the country’s National Electoral Institute. The Senate passed them earlier this year, but the Supreme Court later blocked them from taking effect.
Gálvez never shies from conflict with López Obrador. She went to a judge in December asking for an order to let her speak at the President’s daily news briefing. She was granted the order, but the President rejected it.
Gálvez’s fluid use of profanity, contrasting with her comfort moving in political circles, is an advantage with much of the working class, and with many young Mexicans. She registered this month to compete for the presidential nomination of a broad opposition coalition—the historically leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that ruled Mexico for 70 years—joking that López Obrador was her campaign manager.
López Obrador remains highly popular, and while he cannot run for another six-year term, several high-profile members of his Morena party have been jockeying fiercely for months. They include Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard and Interior Secretary Adan Augusto, who all agreed to resign their positions last month to campaign in earnest. AP
Image credits: AP