General background: The site of advanced Amerindian
civilizations, Mexico came under Spanish rule for
three centuries before achieving independence early
in the 19th century. A devaluation of the peso in
late 1994 threw Mexico into economic turmoil, triggering
the worst recession in over half a century. The nation
continues to make an impressive recovery. Ongoing
economic and social concerns include low real wages,
underemployment for a large segment of the population,
inequitable income distribution, and few advancement
opportunities for the largely Amerindian population
in the impoverished southern states. Elections held
in July 2000 marked the first time since the 1910
Mexican Revolution that the opposition defeated the
party in government, the Institutional Revolutionary
Party (PRI). Vicente FOX of the National Action Party
(PAN) was sworn in on 1 December 2000 as the first
chief executive elected in free and fair elections.
Area comparative: Slightly less than three
times the size of Texas.
Climate: Varies from tropical to desert.
Terrain: High, rugged mountains; low coastal
plains; high plateaus; desert
Population: 103,400,165 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish)
60%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30%, White
9%, other 1%
Religions: Nominally Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant
6%, other 5%
Language: Spanish, various Mayan, Nahuatl,
and other regional indigenous languages.
Government type: Federal republic
Capital: Mexico (Distrito Federal)
Legal system: Mixture of US constitutional
theory and civil law system; judicial review of legislative
acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations.
Economic overview: Mexico has a free market
economy with a mixture of modern and outmoded industry
and agriculture, increasingly dominated by the private
sector. Recent administrations have expanded competition
in seaports, railroads, telecommunications, electricity,
natural gas distribution, and airports. Income distribution
remains highly unequal. Trade with the US and Canada
has tripled since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994.
Following 6.9% growth in 2000, real GDP fell 0.3%
in 2001, with the US slowdown the principal cause.
Positive developments in 2001 included a drop in inflation
to 6.5%, a sharp fall in interest rates, and a strong
peso that appreciated 5% against the dollar. Mexico
City implemented free trade agreements with Guatemala,
Honduras, El Salvador, and the European Free Trade
Area in 2001, putting more than 90% of trade under
free trade agreements. Foreign direct investment reached
$25 billion in 2001, of which $12.5 billion came from
the purchase of Mexico's second largest bank, Banamex,
Communication/Telephone system: Low telephone
density with about 12 main lines per 100 persons;
privatized in December 1990; the opening to competition
in January 1997 improved prospects for development.
Places of interest:
Travel tips: Crime in Mexico has reached critical
levels, particularly in Mexico City. There's been
a marked increase in the level of violence and a significant
incidence of sexual assault in crimes committed against
women. The most frequently reported crimes involve
taxi robberies, armed robbery, metro robbery, pick-pocketing
and purse snatching. Credit-card fraud and ATM robbery
are also prevalent.