SÃO PAULO, Brazil – Claudia Sheinbaum’s landslide electoral victory over Xóchitl Gálvez on June 2 transformed the former Mexico City mayor in the country’s first female president.

Her experience in the struggle against violence in the capital city and her commitment to maintaining her predecessor and fellow party member Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s economic policies have led some Catholics to be optimistic about her administration.

Many analysts see violence as the most critical challenge Sheinbaum will have to face. During AMLO’s tenure [AMLO is the popular name used by the former president], there were at least 30,000 killings every year. The government publicized that there was a slight reduction in the murder rate, but it couldn’t do much to change the popular perception of the problem.

“In Mexico City, Shienbaum was able to put together the three government branches in order to fight crime, managing to dramatically reduce the number of violent deaths,” saidFather Alberto Gómez Sánchez, who directs a migrants’ house in the southern state of Chiapas.

The region has seen an unprecedented wave of violence caused by the dispute between two major drug cartels. Community leaders, peasants, and members of Indigenous groups who dared to resist the mafias’ illegal operations were massacred over the past months.

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“Delinquency has been growing like a cancerous tumor and infiltrated the state and the institutions, even the Catholic Church. Even some people who work with us in pastoral ministries got used to receiving money from the cartels,” he told Crux.

Gómez blames the past administrations – led by Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto – for the increasing power of the criminal gangs in Chiapas and in Mexico as a whole. AMLO couldn’t change in only six years that reality, he argued, but now Sheinbaum has the conditions to obtain more success.

“She’s a very intelligent woman and will receive a country with a firmer base now from AMLO,” Gómez said.

Alberto Arciniega, who worked for two decades with Caritas Mexico and is now at the continental Caritas, defined violence as AMLO’s major “debt” with the Mexican people.

“Sheinbaum’s landslide victory over Gálvez showed that AMLO’s administration has been positively evaluated by the people. Despite that, violence is a major concern for everybody,” he told Crux.

A Mexico City resident, Arciniega said that Sheinbaum managed to reduce criminality and created an atmosphere of safety among many.

“I think she will play a positive role when it comes to fighting crime,” he added.

During the campaign, Sheinbaum signed the Commitment for Peace, a set of suggestions formulated by the Church and numerous civic organizations, produced after two years of debates with over 1,600 institutions.

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The document encompasses seven major themes – social fabric, security, justice, prisons, teenagers, governance, and human rights – and includes dozens of measures that should be taken by the government and social institutions in order to pacify the country.

On Jun. 3, the Church institutions in charge of the National Dialogue for Peace sent a letter to Sheinbaum in order to congratulate her and to remind her of her commitment.

“We reiterate our vocation to dialogue and the construction of bridges to work for peace and justice and our willingness to meet in the coming weeks to define the collaboration route for the implementation of the commitment for peace,” the message read.

Father Conrado Zepeda, a social sciences professor at the Ibero American University in Puebla, said that violence and other critical social issues, like the management of migratory fluxes, are directly connected to the economy and to the struggle against poverty. Those topics, therefore, will be determinant for Sheinbaum’s ability to deal with such a crisis.

“Mexico went through a number of effective economic changes over the past few years. The country is not in serious debt, investments have been made in the public sector, and the minimum wage has been raised by 40 percent. Poverty has been reduced,” he told Crux.

If Sheinbaum manages to keep combating poverty and making the economy grow, crime may go down, he said.

“A better economy may also attract part of the immigrants who arrive from the south and head to the United States border. A higher share of them may choose to remain in Mexico,” Zepeda added.

The immigration crisis is directly connected to the violence crisis, analysts like Zepeda say. Immigrants from South and Central America and the Caribbean – as well as from other parts of the globe – are automatically thrown into the cartels’ webs as soon as they arrive in the country.

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“There isn’t a proper handling of the fluxes by the Mexican authorities. There’s much corruption and disorganization, and the criminal gangs soon capture the immigrants,” said Zepeda, who formerly headed the Jesuit Refugee Service in Mexico.

The arrival of big Chinese companies to the country, allied to the implementation of mega structural projects by the government in the South – like the Tren Maya (Maya Train), which connects different touristic cities – also have the potential to generate wealth and new jobs, promoting the integration of some immigrants, he added.

According to Gómez, people who arrive at his Chiapas’s immigrants’ house have been expressing their wish to find work and remain in Mexico if possible.

“Sheinbaum will proceed with the implementation of industrial conglomerates started by AMLO and more workers will be needed. That can help to channel the immigrants’ fluxes,” the priest said.

Growing numbers of Venezuelans and Haitians have been finding work and trying to integrate into life in Mexico City, Arciniega said.

“There’s room for many more people if the economy goes well,” he said.

Despite his optimism, Arciniega knows that no major transformations should be expected in the short term. Mexico’s problems have been growing over the past decades and no easy solution is realistic.

“Social inequality keeps being gigantic. The richest only want to get richer. They don’t want to reduce the gap between them and the poor. That’s a major cause for social problems, and the government can’t really change it,” he explained.