U.S. Department of State
Mexico, April 1997
Released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs.
Official Name: United Mexican States
Area: 1,972,500 sq. km. (761,600 sq. mi.); about three times
the size of Texas.
Cities: Capital--Mexico City (15 million, 1990
census). Other cities--Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Leon.
Terrain: Coastal lowlands, central high plateaus, and mountains up to
5,400 m. (18,000 ft.).
Climate: Tropical to desert.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Mexican(s).
Population (1997 est.): 95 million.
Annual growth rate
Ethnic groups: Indian-Spanish (mestizo) 60%, Indian
30%, Caucasian 9%, other 1%. Religions: Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 6%,
Language: Spanish. Education: Years compulsory--12.
Health (1996 est.): Infant mortality rate--30/1,000.
Life expectancy--male 70 yrs., female 76 yrs.
Labor force (33
million): Agriculture, forestry, hunting, fishing--26%. Services--24%.
Commerce--24%. Manufacturing--15%. Construction--6%. Transportation and
communication--4%. Mining and quarrying--1%.
Type: Federal republic.
proclaimed September 16, 1810; republic established 1824.
Constitution: February 5, 1917.
Executive--president (chief of state and head of government).
Legislative--bicameral. Judicial--Supreme Court, local and federal systems.
Political parties: Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), National
Action Party (PAN), Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Labor Party (PT),
and several small parties.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
Administrative subdivisions: 31 states and a federal district.
GDP (1997, proj.): $370 billion.
Per capita GDP
(1997, proj.): $3,911.
Annual real GDP growth (1997, proj.): 4.5%;
(1996): 5.1%; (1995): -6.2% Avg. annual real GDP growth (1989-94): 3%.
Inflation rate (1997, proj): 18%; (1996): 28%.
resources: Petroleum, silver, copper, gold, lead, zinc, natural gas,
Agriculture (5.8% of GDP): Products--corn, beans, oilseeds,
feedgrains, fruit, cotton, coffee, sugarcane, winter vegetables.
Industry: Types--manufacturing (22% of GDP), services, commerce,
transportation and communications, petroleum and mining.
(1996, Bank of Mexico): Exports--$96 billion: manufacturing 84%, petroleum and
derivatives 10%, agriculture 5%, other 1%. Major markets: U.S. (84%), Europe
(4%), South America (4%), Canada (2%). Imports--$89.5 billion: intermediate
goods 80%, capital goods 10%, consumer goods 7%, other 3%. Major sources: U.S.
(76%), Europe (9%), Japan (5%), Canada (2%) (1996, U.S. Department of
Commerce). Imports from U.S.--$56.8 billion. Exports to U.S.-- $73 billion.
Average exchange rate (1996): 7.60 pesos = U.S. $1.
Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world and
the second-most populous country in Latin America after Portuguese-speaking
Brazil. About 70% of the people live in urban areas. Many Mexicans emigrate
from rural areas that lack job opportunities--such as the underdeveloped
southern states and the crowded central plateau--to the industrialized urban
centers and the developing areas along the U.S.-Mexico border. According to
some estimates, the population of the area around Mexico City is about 20
million, which would make it the largest concentration of population in the
world. Cities bordering on the United States, such as Tijuana and Ciudad
Juarez, and cities in the interior, such as Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Puebla,
have undergone sharp rises in population.
The 1917 constitution provides for a federal republic with powers
separated into independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. In
practice, the executive is the dominant branch, with power vested in the
president, who promulgates and executes the laws of the Congress. The president
also legislates by executive decree in certain economic and financial fields,
using powers delegated from the Congress. The president is elected by universal
adult suffrage for a six-year term and may not hold office a second time. There
is no vice president; in the event of the removal or death of the president, a
provisional president is elected by the Congress.
The Congress is composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies.
Consecutive re-election is prohibited. Senators are elected to six-year terms.
Implementing constitutional changes made in 1996, for the first time on July 6,
1997, 32 of the 128 seats in the Senate will be elected by proportional
representation from party lists on a national basis. With this change, some
states may have more Senators than others. The 32 Senators elected in 1997 will
only serve three-year terms, in order to bring the entire Senate back into the
same cycle in the year 2000. Deputies serve three-year terms. In the lower
chamber, 300 Deputies are directly elected to represent single-member
districts, and 200 are selected by a modified form of proportional
representation from five electoral regions created for this purpose across the
country. The 200 proportional representation seats were created to help smaller
parties gain access to the Chamber.
The judiciary is divided into federal and state court systems, with
federal courts having jurisdiction over most civil cases and those involving
major felonies. Under the constitution, trial and sentencing must be completed
within 12 months of arrest for crimes that would carry at least a two-year
sentence. Practice often does not meet this requirement. Trial is by judge, not
jury, in most criminal cases. Defendants have a right to counsel, and public
defenders are available. Other rights include defense against
self-incrimination, the right to confront one's accusers, and the right to a
public trial. Supreme Court Justices are appointed by the President and
approved by the Senate.
National Security Mexico's armed forces in 1995 numbered about
175,000. The army makes up about three-fourths of the total. One year of
limited training is required of all males at age 18. Principal military roles
include national defense, narcotics control, and civic action assignments such
as road-building, search and rescue, and disaster relief.
PRINCIPAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS
President--Ernesto ZEDILLO Ponce de Leon
Minister--Jose Angel GURRIA Trevino
Ambassador to the
U.S.--Jesus SILVA-HERZOG Flores
Ambassador to the United
Nations--Manuel TELLO Macias
Ambassador to the OAS--Carmen
MORENO de del Cueto
Mexico maintains an embassy in the United States at 1911 Pennsylvania
Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20006 (tel. 202-728-1600).
Consular offices are located at 2827 16th St. NW, 20009 (tel.
202-736-1012), and the trade office is co-located at the embassy (tel.
Consulates general are located in Chicago, Dallas, Denver, El Paso,
Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Antonio, San Diego, and
San Francisco; consulates are (partial listing) in Atlanta, Boston, Detroit,
Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, and Tucson.
Although educational levels in Mexico have improved substantially in
recent decades, the country still faces daunting problems. Education is one of
the Government of Mexico's highest priorities and it has increased the
education budget 7.2% over 1996 to $15 billion for 1997 -- one-fourth of the
total budget. Education in Mexico is also being decentralized from federal to
state authority in order to improve accountability.
Education is mandatory from ages six through 18. The increase in
school enrollments during the past two decades has been dramatic. By 1994, an
estimated 59% of the population between the ages of six and 18 were enrolled in
school. Primary (including preschool) enrollment in public schools from 1970
through 1994 increased from less than 10 million to 17.5 million. Enrollment at
the secondary public school level rose from 1.4 million in 1972 to as many as
4.5 million in 1994. A rapid rise also occurred in higher education. Between
1959 and 1994, college enrollments rose from 62,000 to more than 1.2 million.
Although education spending has risen dramatically, given increased
enrollment, a net decline occurred in per student expenditures. The Mexican
Government concedes that despite this progress, 2 million children still do not
have access to basic education, and hopes to provide access to half of those
children by the year 2000.
Sustained economic growth is vital to Mexico's prospects for a
successful evolution to a more competitive democracy. Mexico's level of
economic prosperity has a direct, though proportionally smaller impact on the
U.S. as it affects trade and migration. In recent years Mexico has sought
economic prosperity through liberalization of its trade regime. In January
1994, Mexico joined Canada and the United States in the North American Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which will phase out all tariffs over a 15-year
period. Four months later, in April 1994, Mexico joined the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Mexico was the first Latin
American member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), joining
in 1993, and in January 1996, became a founding member of the World Trade
Mexico's NAFTA membership helped the Mexican economy grow by 3.5% in
1994. Following the December 1994 devaluation of the peso, however, Mexico
experienced a severe financial crisis that also threatened the stability of
other emerging market economies, especially in Latin America.
The United States responded by leading a group of international
lenders in making available to Mexico over $40 billion in international
financial assistance, including $20 billion from the United States. This action
helped stabilize the Mexican economy, allowing Mexico to repay the loans to the
United States more than three years ahead of schedule and with $580 million in
In 1996, Mexico's economy grew over 5%, recovering from the recession
more briskly than anticipated. Inflation fell, unemployment fell and the peso
stabilized. Mexican real GDP is expected to grow about 4% in 1997.
Although the 1995 recession was severe, with real GDP falling 6.2%,
tough stabilization measures averted an even more serious collapse and brought
about a rapid recovery. NAFTA contributed to the process of adjustment by
enabling Mexico to reduce its current account deficit through increased exports
rather than through slashing imports from the United States, as it had
following the 1982 debt crisis.
U.S. relations with Mexico are as important and complex as with any
country in the world. A stable, democratic and economically prosperous Mexico
is fundamental to U.S. interests. Our relations with Mexico have a direct
impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans -- whether the
issue is trade and economic reform, drug control, migration, or the promotion
of democracy. The U.S. and Mexico are partners in NAFTA, and enjoy a rapidly
developing trade relationship.
The scope of U.S.-Mexican relations goes far beyond diplomatic and
official contacts; it entails extensive commercial, cultural, and educational
ties, as demonstrated by the nearly 290 million legal crossings from Mexico to
the United States in fiscal year 1995. In addition, more than half a million
American citizens live in Mexico. More than 2,600 U.S. companies have
operations there, and the U.S. accounts for 60% of all foreign direct
investment in Mexico. Along the 2,000-mile shared border, state and local
governments interact closely.
Since 1981, the management of the broad array of U.S.-Mexico issues
has been formalized in the U.S.-Mexico Binational Commission, composed of
numerous U.S. cabinet members and their Mexican counterparts. The Commission
holds annual plenary meetings, and many sub-groups meet during the course of
the year to discuss trade and investment opportunities, financial cooperation,
consular issues and migration, legal affairs and anti-narcotics cooperation,
cultural relations, education, energy, border cooperation, environment, labor,
agriculture, health, housing and urban development, transportation, fisheries,
tourism, and science and technology.
A strong partnership with Mexico is critical to controlling the flow
of illicit drugs into the United States. The U.S. has certified Mexico as fully
cooperating in this effort based on an unprecedented level of cooperation on
counternarcotics and Mexico's own initiatives in fighting drug trafficking.
This is the best way to ensure that Mexico's cooperation and anti-drug efforts
grow even stronger. During 1996, the U.S. and Mexico established a High-Level
Contact Group (HLCG) on narcotics control to explore joint solutions to the
shared drug threat, to coordinate the full range of narcotics issues and to
promote closer law enforcement coordination.
The United States and Mexico have a long history of cooperation on
environmental and natural resources issues, particularly in the border area,
where there are serious environmental problems caused by rapid population
growth, urbanization, and industrialization. Cooperative activities between the
U.S. and Mexico take place under a number of agreements such as:
A 1944 treaty creating the International Boundary and Water
Commission, which has a wide range of responsibilities for solving U.S.-Mexico
water and boundary problems such as distributing the waters of the Colorado
River and the Rio Grande between the two countries; jointly operating
international dams and other joint flood control works along boundary rivers;
and solving border water quality control problems. Since the early 1980's the
IBWC has focused on border sanitation and groundwater resources.
The 1983 La Paz Agreement to Protect and Improve the Border
The 1993 North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation,
created under NAFTA by the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, to strengthen
environmental laws and address common environmental concerns; and
A November 1993 agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, also under
NAFTA, establishing the Border Environmental Cooperation Commission (BECC)
which works with local communities to build or upgrade environmental
infrastructure such as wastewater treatment plants, drinking water systems, and
solid waste disposal facilities; and the North American Development Bank
(NADBANK), which leverages private sector capital to finance border
environmental infrastructure projects certified by the BECC.
PRINCIPAL U.S. OFFICIALS
Ambassador--James R. Jones
Deputy Chief of
Mission--Charles H. Brayshaw
Minister-Counselor for Political
Affairs--Barbro A. Owens-Kirkpatrick
Economic Affairs--William Brew
Counselor for Labor
Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs
(USIS)--Donald R. Hamilton
Minister-Counselor for Consular
Consul General (Acting) --Richard
Counselor for Scientific and Technological Affairs--Paul
Counselor for Commercial Affairs--Kevin C. Brennan
President Clinton's Trip to Mexico, Costa
Rica, and Barbados