Country profile: Mexico
Mexico is a nation where affluence, poverty, natural splendour and urban blight rub shoulders.
Its politics were dominated for 70 years by the Institutional
Revolutionary Party, or PRI. But elections in 1997 saw a resurgent
opposition break what was in effect a one-party system with a
Elections in 2000 confirmed the trend when Vicente Fox became the first president to come from the opposition.
Mexico is a major oil producer and exporter. Though production has
fallen in the last few years, about one-third of government revenue
still comes from the industry. Much of the crude is bought by the US.
A vendor sells flowers for Mexico's Day of the Dead celebrations
But prosperity remains a dream for most Mexicans. Rural areas are often neglected and huge shanty towns ring the cities.
poor Mexicans try to cross the 3,000-km border with the US in search of
a job, and more than a million are arrested every year.
die of heat exhaustion or thirst while making the attempt, and the
exodus has led to some towns and villages in Mexico being virtually
empty of able-bodied men.
The Mexican economy is heavily
dependent on the money sent home by the millions of migrant workers in
the US, and so it has been hit hard by the downturn in its neighbour's
Another persistent issue has been the pressure for
greater rights for Mexico's indigenous people. A law passed in 2001
fell short of giving Mexico's Indians political autonomy.
demands for indigenous rights have been largely peaceful since 1994,
when at least 150 people died during an uprising in the southern state
of Chiapas, led by the Zapatista rebel movement.
is a major concern; Mexico has one of the highest rates of kidnappings
in the world. Turf wars between rival drug cartels are said to lie
behind many gangland killings.
Writers such as Octavio Paz and
Carlos Fuentes, the mural-painter Diego Rivera, and popular ranchero
and mariachi music mean that Mexican culture is known throughout the
Spanish-speaking world and beyond.
- Full name: United Mexican States
- Population: 109.6 million (UN, 2009)
- Capital: Mexico City
- Area: 1.96 million sq km (758,449 sq miles)
- Major language: Spanish
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 74 years (men), 79 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 peso = 100 centavos
- Main exports: Machinery and transport equipment, mineral fuels and lubricants, food and live animals
- GNI per capita: US $9,980 (World Bank, 2008)
- Internet domain: .mx
- International dialling code: +52
President: Felipe Calderon
Felipe Calderon, from
the governing, conservative National Action Party, was declared the
winner of the bitterly-fought July 2006 presidential election with a
lead of less than a percentage point over his left-wing rival, Andres
Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Felipe Calderon's election win was bitterly disputed by opposition
His win was confirmed after weeks of legal wrangling. He took
office on 1 December; raucous scenes in Congress accompanied his
inauguration. Mr Obrador, a populist former mayor of Mexico City,
challenged the poll outcome in the courts and led a campaign of street
protests. He refused to recognise Mr Calderon's win.
taking office, Mr Calderon announced plans for an anti-poverty drive,
targeting Mexico's 100 poorest towns. He also promised to cut his own
salary by 10%. Both themes were central to the election campaign of his
He vowed to tackle violent crime, tax evasion and
corruption. To this end, he promised to raise salaries in the army - a
key player in the fight against crime.
He has predicted that
the fight against drug gangs will take longer than his six-year term in
office. He has dispatched thousands of troops to combat feuding drug
Mr Calderon has pledged to create jobs, in an effort
to stem outward migration, and to pursue major infrastructure projects,
including roads, airports, bridges and dams.
However, Mexico's economy was hard hit by the 2008 downturn in global demand, pushing down the president's approval ratings.
the 2009 mid-term elections, voters punished Mr Calderon and his
National Action Party by making the formerly all-powerful Institutional
Revolutionary Party (PRI) the biggest force in the Chamber of Deputies.
Born in 1962, in Morelia in Michoacan state, he is married and
has three children. A lawyer and an economist by profession, he
resigned as energy minister in 2004 to pursue his presidential
His predecessor, Vicente Fox, took office in December 2000 and was unable by law to run in the 2006 poll.
Mexico's media were traditionally dominated by the Televisa group,
which had firm links with the PRI. But the loosening of the PRI's hold
led to greater editorial independence and the emergence of competitors.
Televisa once had a virtual monopoly in Mexican TV and it is
still a major global supplier of programmes in Spanish. New players -
such as the Azteca group and foreign satellite and cable operators -
have mounted an assault on Televisa's dominance.
market is very large, with around 1,400 local and regional stations and
several major station-owning groups. Some high-powered stations on
Mexico's northern border beam their signals into lucrative US markets.
Mexican newspapers reflect different political views; sensationalism characterises the biggest-selling dailies.
media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said in 2008 that Mexico was
the most deadly country in the Americas for journalists.