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Mexico’s incoming president announces first Cabinet picks: academics and former public servants

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s incoming President Claudia Sheinbaum began naming her Cabinet Thursday, presenting an even gender distribution, as well as a heavy presence from academia and her prior administration as Mexico City’s mayor.

Sheinbaum, herself a climate scientist and former academic, appointed former Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard as her administration’s economy secretary. Ebrard stepped down from that post in 2023 to run against Sheinbaum for their party’s nomination.

Sheinbaum romped to victory in the June 2 election.

Ebrard, 63, was the official President Andrés Manuel López Obrador placed in charge of obtaining foreign-made vaccines for Mexico during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also served from 2006 to 2012 as mayor of Mexico City, traditionally the launching pad for the presidency.

While he was once viewed as the second-most important figure in the Morena party, his standing was tarnished by two key events. First, a subway line that was hastily and poorly constructed while he was mayor collapsed in 2021, killing 26 passengers. Second, he engaged in a bare-knuckle primary race against Sheinbaum in 2023 for Morena’s presidential nomination, but instead of conceding defeat quickly, he alleged irregularities and continued with legal challenges.

Still, the appointment of Ebrard appeared to be welcomed by investors, who were spooked earlier in the month following a number of proposed judicial reforms by Sheinbaum, which caused the peso to drop. After Thursday’s Cabinet picks were announced, the Mexican currency showed a slight appreciation.

Ebrard will have to take on the renewal of a free trade agreement with the United States and Canada and increase foreign investment, another well-received announcement, said Gabriela Siller, director of economic analysis of the local financial group Banco Base.

However, Siller said the markets’ concern “has not disappeared” as worries mount around the proposed controversial judicial reform.

Sheinbaum chose Juan Ramón de la Fuente as her secretary of foreign affairs.

De la Fuente, 72, is the former rector of Mexico’s largest university, the public National Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM, which Sheinbaum attended and worked at.

He has served as Mexico’s ambassador to the United Nations under López Obrador and is known for a calm and diplomatic demeanor.

He was health secretary in the late 1990s. Trained as a psychiatrist, De la Fuente is good at listening and has an academic air, like Sheinbaum herself. He served in the key position as her transition coordinator, so he’s as close to her as anyone.

Mexico’s current foreign affairs secretary, Alicia Bárcena, will now serve as secretary of environment and natural resources.

Sheinbaum said Thursday she will create a new ministry overseeing science, humanities, technology and innovation. For that role, she chose Rosaura Ruiz Gutiérrez, a biologist who previously led the school of sciences at UNAM. Ruiz Gutiérrez had also been Mexico City’s secretary of education while Sheinbaum was mayor.

Sheinbaum tapped Ernestina Godoy, who was the chief prosecutor for Mexico City when Sheinbaum was mayor, to be her administration’s legal adviser.

Julio Berdegué Sacristán, an agronomist with a long academic trajectory, was her choice for the secretary of agriculture and rural development.

Sheinbaum said she would present more Cabinet picks next week.

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