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Mexico or United Mexican States

Size: 1,972,550 square kilometers–third largest nation in Latin America (after Brazil and Argentina).

Topography: Various massive mountain ranges including Sierra Madre Occidental in west, Sierra Madre Oriental in east,

Cordillera Neovolcáánica in center, and Sierra Madre del

Sur in south; lowlands largely along coasts and in Yucatan Peninsula. Interior of country high plateau. Frequent seismic activity.

Drainage: Few navigable rivers. Most rivers short and run from mountain ranges to coast.

Climate: Great variations owing to considerable north-south extension and variations in altitude. Most of the country has two seasons: wet (June-September) and dry (October-April). Generally low rainfall in interior and north. Abundant rainfall along east coast, in south, and in Yucatan Peninsula.


Population: Estimated population of 94.8 million persons in mid-1996. Annual rate of growth 1.96 percent.

Language: Spanish official language, spoken by nearly all. About 8 percent of population speaks an indigenous language; most of these people speak Spanish as second language. Knowledge of English increasing rapidly, especially among business people, the middle class, returned emigrants, and the young.

Ethnic Groups: Predominantly mestizo society (60 percent); 30 percent indigenous; 9 percent European; 1 percent other.

Education and Literacy: Secretariat of

Public Education has overall responsibility for all levels of education system. Compulsory education to age sixteen; public education free. Government distributes free textbooks and workbooks to all primary schools. Official literacy rate in 1990 was 88 percent.

Health and Welfare: Health care personnel and facilities generally concentrated in urban areas; care in rural areas confined to understaffed clinics operated mostly by medical graduate students.

Life expectancy in 1996 estimated at seventy-three years. Infant mortality twenty-six per 1,000 live births. Leading causes of death infections, parasitic diseases, and respiratory and circulatory system failures.

Religion: About 90 percent of population

Roman Catholic, according to 1990 census. Protestants (about 6 percent) ranked second. Number of Protestants has increased dramatically since 1960s, especially in southern states.

Overview: From a colonial economy based largely on mining, especially silver, in the twentieth century, the economy has diversified to include strong agriculture, petroleum, and industry sectors. Strong growth from 1940-80 interrupted by series of economic crises, caused in part by massive overborrowing. 1980s marked by inflation and lowering standard of living. Austerity measures and introduction of free-market policies led to a period of growth from 1990-94. Membership in North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993 led to hopes of continued economic growth.

However, growing trade deficit and overvalued exchange rate in 994 financed by sale of short-term bonds and foreign- exchange reserves. Series of political shocks and devaluation of new peso in late 1994 caused investor panic. Inflation soared, and massive foreign intervention was required to stabilize situation. Although overall economy remains fundamentally strong, lack of confidence makes short-term prospects for strong growth unlikely. Gross Domestic Product (GDP): Estimated at US$370 billion in 1994; approximately US$4,100 per capita.

Currency and Exchange Rate: Relatively stable throughout most of twentieth century, the peso (Mex$) began to depreciate rapidly during economic crisis of 1980s. In January 1993, peso replaced by new peso (NMex$) at rate of NMex$1 = Mex$1,000. Exchange rate in January 1993, US$1 = NMex$3. 1; rate in April 1997, US$1 = NMex$7. 9. Agriculture: Contributed 8. 1 percent of GDP in 1994. Main crops for domestic consumption corn, beans, wheat, and rice. Leading agricultural exports coffee, cotton, vegetables, fruit, livestock, and tobacco. Industry: Mining, manufacturing, and construction contributed 28 percent of GDP in 1994.

Industrialization increased rapidly after 1940. By 1990 large and diversified industrial base located largely in industrial triangle of Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara. Most industrial goods produced, including automobiles, consumer goods, steel, and petrochemicals. World’s sixth largest producer of petroleum and major producer of nonfuel minerals. Energy: More than 120 billion kilowatt-hours produced in 1993, about 75 percent from thermal (mostly oil-burning) plants, 20 percent from hydroelectric, and the rest from nuclear or geothermal plants.

One nuclear plant with two reactors at Laguna Verde in Veracruz State. Huge petroleum deposits discovered in Gulf of Mexico in 1970s. In 1995 sixth-largest producer of oil and had eighth-largest proven reserves. Exports: US$60. 8 billion in 1994. Manufactured xports include processed food products, textiles, chemicals, machinery, and steel. Other important export items are metals and minerals, livestock, fish, and agricultural products. Major exports to United States are petroleum, automotive engines, silver, shrimp, coffee, and winter vegetables.

Imports: US$79. 4 billion in 1994. Main imports are metal-working machines, steel-mill products, agricultural machines, chemicals, and capital goods. Leading imports from United States include motor vehicle parts, automatic data processing parts, aircraft repair parts, car parts for assembly, and paper and paperboard. Debt: Massive foreign debt. Buoyed by discovery of large petroleum reserves, government borrowed heavily in 1970s. When severe recession hit in 1982, government declared moratorium on debt payments, precipitating international economic crisis.

Austerity measures and renegotiation of the debt eased crisis, but in 1995 debt stood at US$158. 2 billion. Balance of Payments: Large trade deficits from 1989 to 1993 pushed current account deeply into deficit. Dramatic improvement in trade balance in 1994 and 1995, however, nearly eliminated deficit. Heavy international borrowing allowed international reserves to rise to US$15. 7 billion at end of 1995. Mexico Transportation and Telecommunications Roads: Extensive system of roads linking all areas.

More than 240,000 kilometers of roads, of which 85,000 paved (more than 3,100 kilometers expressway). Heaviest concentration in central Mexico. Many roads in poor condition as result of lack of maintenance and heavy truck traffic. Railroads: More than 20,000 kilometers. Standard gauge, largely government-owned. System concentrated in north and central areas. Numerous connections to United States railroads; system largely used for freight and in need of modernization. Extensive, heavily used subway system in Mexico City; smaller subway in Guadalajara. Ports: No good natural harbors.

On east coast, Veracruz is principal port for cargo; Tampico, Coatzacoalcos, and Progreso handle petroleum. Guaymas, Mazatlaan, and Manzanillo are principal ports on Pacific. Air Transport: Adequate system of airlines and airports. More than 1,500 airstrips in 1994, of which 202 had permanent-surface runways. Principal international airport in Mexico City; other international airports in Monterrey, Guadalajara, Meerida, and Cancuun. Aeeromexico is main domestic airline. Telecommunications: Highly developed system undergoing expansion and privatization.

Long-distance telephone calls go ia mix of microwave and domestic satellite links with 120 ground stations. International calls via five satellite ground stations and microwave links to United States. Demand still exceeds supply for new telephones in homes, but situation improving. More than 600 mediumwave amplitude modulation (AM) stations, privately owned. Twenty-two shortwave AM stations. Almost 300 television stations, most organized into two national networks. Government and Politics Government: Constitution of 1917 in force in 1997.

Formally a federal republic, although federal government dominates governments of thirty-one states and Federal District. Central government power concentrated in president, who directs activities of numerous agencies and state-owned business enterprises. Bicameral legislature (128-member Senate and 500-member Chamber of Deputies) relatively weak. Federal judiciary headed by Supreme Court of Justice. State governments headed by elected governors; all states have unicameral legislatures; state courts subordinate to federal courts.

Federal District governed by mayor (regente) indirectly elected by legislative body of the Federal District beginning in 1996; more than 2,000 local governments headed by elected municipal presidents and municipal councils. Politics: Authoritarian system governed by president, who cannot be reelected to another six-year term. Major political organization Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional–PRI), which incorporates peasant groups, labor unions, and many middle-class organizations within its ranks.

Many opposition parties have had limited electoral success; largest is the conservative Party of National Action (Partido de Accioon Nacional–PAN). Direct elections at regular intervals; rule of no reelection applies to most offices. Election by majority vote, except for 200 seats in Chamber of Deputies eserved for opposition parties chosen by proportional representation. Extensive participation by interest groups and labor unions in government and PRI affairs. Foreign Relations: Major attention devoted to United States.

Trade and immigration along shared border subjects of continuing negotiations. Foreign policy traditionally based on international law; nonintervention the major principle. Widely active in hemispheric affairs, including good relations with Cuba. International Agreements and Memberships: Party to Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty). Membership n international organizations includes Organization of American States and its specialized agencies, United Nations and its specialized agencies, Latin American Alliance for Economic Development, and Latin American Economic System.

Joined NAFTA in 1993. Mexico National Security Armed Forces: Total strength in 1996 about 175,000 active-duty personnel. Army, 130,000; air force, 8,000; and navy (including naval aviation and marines), 37,000. Approximately 60,000 conscripts, selected by lottery. Reserve force of 300,000. Women serving in armed forces have same legal rights and duties as men but in practice not eligible to erve in combat positions, be admitted to service academies, or be promoted beyond rank equivalent of major general in United States armed forces.

Military Units: Two government ministries responsible for national defense: Secretariat of National Defense and Secretariat of the Navy. Country divided into nine military regions with thirty-six military zones. Each military zone usually assigned at least two infantry battalions composed of some 300 troops each; some zones also assigned cavalry regiments (now motorized) or one of three artillery battalions. Personnel ssigned to air force also within command structure of Secretariat of National Defense, distributed among air base installations throughout country.

Principal air base, Military Air Base Number 1, located at Santa Luciia in state of Meexico. Personnel under command of Secretariat of the Navy assigned to one of seventeen naval installations located in each coastal state. Equipment: Under modernization program begun in 1970s, armed forces began to replace aging World War II-vintage equipment. Attention also given to development of domestic military industry. Mexican navy benefited significantly in terms of new vessels–most domestically uilt. Plans for additional acquisitions from abroad constrained by country’s economic problems.

Police: Various federal, state, and local police provide internal security. Senior law enforcement organization is Federal Judicial Police, controlled by attorney general, with nationwide jurisdiction. More than 3,000 members in 1996. Each state and the Federal District has its own force, as do most municipalities. Low pay and corruption remain serious problems at all levels. Protection and Transit Directorate–known as “Traffic Police”–major Mexico City police force; in 1996 employed some 29,000 personnel.

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