Mexicans with very different realities will vote on Sunday in Mexico

Blanca Lopez runs a company that makes precision parts for Boeing in northern Mexico. Sandra Sanchez waits for customers in her small restaurant in the south of the country.

The two women are called to the polls on Sunday, but appear to live in two different countries on the same territory called Mexico, covering an area of ​​almost two million km2.

Facing Texas and the United States, with its industrial capital Monterrey, the north is the industrial and export engine of Mexico.

Historically underdeveloped, the south – Yucatan Peninsula, Chiapas, Oaxaca – benefited from large investments under the mandate of outgoing nationalist left-wing president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to catch up.

In Monterrey, Blanca Lopez, 41, receives AFP in front of machines that mold steel components for the aeronautics industry.

“The parts can be used for seats or even inside the turbines or the engine of the plane,” says the executive director of Mimsa Maquinados, whose factory is located in Santa Catarina, in the metropolitan area of ​​Monterrey.

The factory, whose history began in Blanca’s father’s small workshop, also works for the chemical and food industry.

“Knowing that we work well, and that our staff is qualified, all of this fills us with pride,” smiles Blanca.

Two hours from the Texas border, the Monterrey aerospace cluster is home to other companies that make parts for General Electric.

Monterrey is the capital of Nuevo Leon, which represents 8% of Mexican GDP, for barely six million inhabitants out of 129 million in total.

“Raise the country”

Some 1,400 km to the southeast, Sandra Sánchez waits for customers in her restaurant in Chiltepec, a picturesque village in the state of Tabasco.

Chiltepec is 20 minutes from the Olmeca refinery in Dos Bocas, one of the major projects of outgoing President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, originally from Tabasco.

The 34-year-old young woman speaks with tenderness of “the little cotton head”, in reference to the white hair of the outgoing president, 70 years old.

“The economy has changed a lot since the grandfather’s mandate began (in December 2018 Editor’s note),” Sandra continues. “We see the difference with previous mandates. »

Sandra took advantage of it. When the refinery was under construction, the restaurant received hundreds of workers and revenues increased. The end of the work led to a drop in attendance.

In addition to the refinery, the outgoing president launched two other mega-projects to compensate for delays in the south.

With a total distance of 1,500 km, the Maya Train is supposed to spread tourism dividends throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, and not just in Cancun or the archaeological site of Chichen Itza.

The project cost an estimated $30 billion, far more than the initial budget. The train was officially inaugurated by Lopez Obrador in December 2023.

The president also launched an “interoceanic corridor” between the Pacific and the Atlantic, with passenger and freight trains between the ports of Salina Cruz (Oaxaca) and Coatzacoalcos on the Gulf of Mexico, in the state of Veracruz.

The government announced an investment of $2.85 billion for this project, which complements or rivals the Panama Canal.

Sustainable growth?

With these major works, the southeast of Mexico “will never again be forgotten,” declared the president, whose Morena party should win the presidential election on Sunday with its candidate Claudia Sheinbaum.

The state of Oaxaca also benefited from the construction of a highway to connect its capital Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido, on the Pacific, and its beaches well known to foreign tourists.

What will be the effects of investments in the long term? Tabasco experienced the largest drop in job creation in March (-1.4%), according to a report from the Spanish bank BBVA, leader in the Mexican market.

“We have seen that employment indices are no longer as dynamic as at the height of work (on the refinery),” says Jesús Carrillo, of the Mexican Competitiveness Institute (IMCO).

The end of the refinery work is also being felt in Paraiso, near Chiltepec. “People will start to complain that there is no more work,” sighs Juan Gabriel Córdova, a 49-year-old fisherman.

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