Metro in Mexico City reveals mayor’s aspirations for the presidency’s “Achilles heel”

Mexico City Metro: The pressure on Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, one of the front-runners to be the next president of the country, has increased as a result of the second significant accident in the Mexico City metro in as many years and a string of recent accidents in the transportation system.

Sheinbaum’s administration has come under fire as a result of the Jan. 7 train collision that left one person dead and 57 injured as well as other errors, all while she is running for president in 2024 as a candidate for President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s National Regeneration Movement (MORENA).

The MORENA secretary general declared “sabotage” in response to reports of cut wires, debris pushed into rails and other damage. Sheinbaum dispatched 6,000 National Guard personnel to patrol metro stations and promised security following “intentional occurrences” that are being looked into.

However, many have criticized that action as an attempt to divert attention from a lack of maintenance and investment in the network, which carries millions of passengers every day.

Jorge Bravo, a political scientist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), described the metro as “perhaps the Achilles heel of Claudia Sheinbaum’s presidential aspirations,” saying that the network is seen as a crucial test of her abilities to lead.

There are hints that it might be damaging her already.

Support for Sheinbaum decreased by five percentage points from December to 41% in a January poll by the newspaper El Financiero, which was partially conducted on the day of the deadly accident.

Support for her closest rival, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, increased from 36% to 38% behind her.

An inquiry for comment was not immediately answered by Sheinbaum’s office.

The metro employees’ union, which runs the network and has been in charge since the 1970s, and MORENA have subsequently engaged in a verbal spat.

Some MORENA lawmakers accuse the union of attempting to harm Sheinbaum and place blame for the metro’s problems on them. The union has rejected the claims, claiming that the issues were caused by her government’s underinvestment in the metro, as well as those of its predecessors.

Sheinbaum has officially committed to increasing metro spending, but analysis of government data by the think group Mexico Evalua reveals that maintenance fell down during the pandemic.

In 2022, the metro’s budget did rise by more than 3 billion pesos or around 25%. However, funds were probably prioritized for issue locations, according to Mexico Evalua, such as Line 12, which saw a tragic accident in May 2021 that left 26 people dead.

According to Eduardo Miranda, a structural engineering professor at Stanford University, deploying the National Guard could backfire if the city places more importance on its deployment than repairs or replacing worn-out components.

“The National Guard is not going to detect that or make a difference if mishaps continue, like a cable or the signal system breaks,” Miranda added.

Because repairs are less noticeable than other projects, governments have been reluctant to invest more in the metro’s upkeep. They have also been reluctant to raise the five pesos ($0.26) fare for fear of upsetting the public, according to Mariana Campos of Mexico Evalua.

According to Campos, “They haven’t given it the importance it needs and they have taken too many chances.”

According to a Mexican government official, Sheinbaum is still being scrutinized for her response to the deadly overpass fall in 2021. Despite this, the official claimed the union was attempting to damage Sheinbaum.

The city hired the Norwegian company DNV to look into the incident, and they found that one of the causes was maintenance. Before the results were made public, Sheinbaum, however, rejected them and threatened to sue DNV. The official claimed that her attempt to bury the information damaged her reputation.

Sheinbaum has certainly avoided problems in the past. As the district mayor of Mexico City, she presided over the school collapse that resulted in the death of 19 children in the 2017 earthquake.

After finding illegal construction, she filed a criminal case accusing two previous district attorneys of failing to follow the law. She was elected mayor of Mexico City in 2018.

Lopez Obrador has now endorsed her choice to call in the National Guard, showing his unmistakable support for her.

Bravo at UNAM warned that this would increase opposition claims that she is unable to handle emergencies.

Claudia is demonstrating that she can’t do it by herself, he said.

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