U.S. Department of State
Background Notes:  Mexico, May 1996
Bureau of Inter-American Affairs

Prepared and released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, 
Office of Mexican Affairs

May 1996
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 (1995 est.):  92 million.
Annual growth rate (net):  1.8%.
Ethnic groups:  Indian-Spanish (mestizo) 60%, Indian 30%, Caucasian 
9%, other 1%.
Religions:  Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 6%, other 5%.
Language:  Spanish.
Education:  Years compulsory--12.  Literacy--89%.
Health (1995 est.):  Infant mortality rate--30/1,000.  Life expectancy--
male 69 yrs., female 75 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.
Independence:  First proclaimed September 16, 1810; republic 
established 1824.
Constitution:  February 5, 1917.
Branches:  Executive--president (chief of state and head of 
government).  Legislative--bicameral.  Judicial--Supreme Court, local 
and federal systems.
Political parties:  Institutional Revolutionary Party, National Action 
Party, Party of the Democratic Revolution, Labor Party.
Suffrage:  Universal at 18.
Administrative subdivisions:  31 states and a Federal District.


GDP (1995):  $250 billion.
Per capita GDP:  $2,733.
Annual real GDP growth (1995):  -6.9%.
Avg. annual real GDP growth (1989-94):  3%.
Inflation rate (1995):  52%.
Natural resources:  Petroleum, silver, copper, gold, lead, zinc, natural 
gas, timber.
Agriculture:  Products--corn, beans, oilseeds, feedgrains, fruit, 
coffee, sugarcane, winter vegetables.
Industry:  Types--manufacturing, services, commerce, transportation 
and communications, petroleum and mining.
Trade (1995):  Exports--$80 billion:  manufacturing 84%, petroleum 
and derivatives 10%, agriculture 5%, other 1%.  Imports--$72 billion: 
intermediate goods 80%, capital goods 10%, consumer goods 7%, 
other 3%.  Major trading partners--U.S., EU, Japan.  Imports from 
U.S.--$54 billion (Bank of Mexico).  Exports to U.S.--$67 billion 
(Bank of Mexico).
Average exchange rate (1995):  6.56 pesos = U.S. $1.


Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world; it 
is 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.

Education in Mexico is being decentralized and enhanced in rural 
areas.  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.  Enrollments at the secondary 
public school level shot up 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-level enrollments rose from 62,000 to 
more than 1.2 million.  Education spending has risen dramatically, 
from 2.6% of GDP in 1988 to 4.4% in 1994.


Highly advanced cultures, including those of the Olmecs, Mayas, 
Toltecs, and Aztecs, existed in Mexico long before the Spanish 
conquest.  Hernando Cortes conquered Mexico during the period 1519-
21 and founded a Spanish colony that lasted nearly 300 years.  
Independence from Spain was proclaimed by Father Miguel Hidalgo 
on September 16, 1810; this launched a war for independence.  An 
1821 treaty recognized Mexican independence from Spain and called 
for a constitutional monarchy.  The planned monarchy failed; a 
republic was proclaimed in December 1822 and established in 1824.

Prominent figures in Mexico's war for independence were Father Jose 
Maria Morelos; Gen. Augustin de Iturbide, who defeated the Spaniards 
and ruled as Mexican emperor from 1822-23; and Gen. Antonio Lopez 
de Santa Ana, who went on to control Mexican politics from 1833 to 

Santa Ana was Mexico's leader during the conflict with Texas, which 
declared itself independent from Mexico in 1836, and during Mexico's 
war with the United States (1846-48).  The presidential terms of Benito 
Juarez (1858-71) were interrupted by the Hapsburg monarchy's rule of 
Mexico.  Archduke Maximilian of Austria, whom Napoleon III of 
France established as Emperor of Mexico, was deposed by Juarez and 
executed in 1867.  General Porfirio Diaz was President during most of 
the period between 1877 and 1911.

Mexico's severe social and economic problems erupted in a revolution 
that lasted from 1910-20 and gave rise to a 1917 constitution.  
Prominent leaders in this period--some were rivals for power--were 
Francisco I. Madero, Venustiano Carranza, Pancho Villa, Alvaro 
Obregon, Victoriano Huerta, and Emiliano Zapata.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), formed in 1929 under a 
different name, continues to be the most important political force in 
the nation.  For over 65 years, Mexico's Government has been controlled 
by the PRI, which has won every presidential race and most 
gubernatorial races.


The 1917 constitution provides for a federal republic with powers 
separated into independent executive, legislative, and judicial 

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 empowered to legislate on all matters pertaining to the 
national government.  Congress is composed of a Senate and a 
Chamber of Deputies.  Consecutive re-election to the Congress is 
prohibited; senators, four from each state and the Federal District 
(i.e., Mexico City), are elected to six-year terms.  Deputies serve 
three-year terms.  Under constitutional and legislative reforms adopted 
in 1986, the Chamber of Deputies was enlarged in 1988 from 400 to 500 
members.  In 1994, the Senate was expanded from 64 to 128 seats.  In 
the expanded lower chamber, 300 deputies are directly elected to 
represent single-member districts, and 200 are selected on an at-large 
basis by a modified form of proportional representation.  The 200 at-
large seats were created to give the opposition parties more of a voice 
in the Chamber of Deputies.

The judiciary is divided into federal and state court systems, with 
federal courts having jurisdiction over most civil cases and those 
involving major felonies.  Beginning in 1995, an independent judicial 
council administers the federal court system (except for the Supreme 
Court which continues to administer itself).  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.  Trial is by 
judge, not jury, in nearly all 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 reaching age 18.  A paramilitary force of 
communal landholders is maintained in the countryside.  Principal 
military roles include national defense, narcotics control, and civic 
action assignments such as road-building and disaster relief.

Principal Government Officials

President--Ernesto ZEDILLO Ponce de Leon
Foreign 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. 202-728-

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.


Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon was sworn in on December 1, 1994, as 
the President of Mexico.  A trained economist with degrees from Yale, 
Zedillo served as Secretary of Programming and Budget and Secretary 
of Education in the Salinas administration prior to being elected.

President Zedillo has initiated an ambitious plan for continuing the 
process already underway for opening Mexico's political system, 
reforming the justice system, curtailing corruption, strengthening the 
fight against narcotics trafficking, and furthering Mexico's market-
oriented economic policies.  Although an unexpected financial crisis 
occupied much of the Zedillo administration's attention in 1995, 
significant progress has been achieved in some areas.

Political Scene

Unexpected and traumatic events in 1994 convulsed and permanently 
altered the Mexican political scene.  They had a significant impact on 
the 1994 presidential election and subsequent state and local elections.

In January 1994, indigenous peasants in the state of Chiapas briefly 
took up arms against the government, proclaiming resistance to 
oppression and governmental indifference to poverty and depressed 
social conditions.  A preliminary peace accord, concluded in March 
1994, was later rejected by the rebels and a prolonged period of tension 
in the state ensued.

In response to rebel efforts to expand violence beyond Chiapas, the 
government in February 1995 ordered the arrests of suspected rebel 
leaders.  After several weeks of indirect negotiations facilitated by 
congressional and church groups, the two sides agreed in early April to 
resume direct peace talks.  In February 1996, government and rebel 
negotiators signed an agreement establishing legal basis for indigenous 
practices in electoral and judicial matters.  Talks on a number of other 
issues, including granting greater autonomy to indigenous 
communities, continue in 1996.

In March 1994, PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was 
assassinated at a rally in Tijuana.  In September 1994, PRI Secretary 
General Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu was killed as he departed a 
meeting in Mexico City.  Although the gunmen in both murders and 
co-conspirators in the Ruiz Massieu murder were tried and convicted, 
the Zedillo government and Mexican public are not satisfied that the 
truth behind these crimes has been uncovered.  Both cases remain open 
and official investigations continue.

Reinvigorated investigations into the murders resulted in the 
apprehensions in February 1995 of a second gunman in the Colosio 
murder, the arrest the same month of the brother of former president 
Carlos Salinas as a suspected mastermind behind the second crime, and 
the filing of charges in March 1995 against the brother of Ruiz Massieu 
for obstructing prior investigations into the murder.  Additional 
charges, including illegal enrichment for amassing multi-million dollar 
fortunes in overseas bank accounts,  were filed against both men.

Recent Elections and Electoral Reform

A record 78% of registered voters cast ballots in the generally peaceful 
August 21, 1994, elections.  Election officials declared Zedillo of the 
PRI the winner with 49% of the vote, followed by center-right National 
Action Party (PAN) candidate Diego Fernandez de Cevallos with 26% 
and Cuauhtemoc Cardenas of the Party of the Democratic Revolution 
(PRD) with 17%.  Despite isolated incidents of irregularities and 
problems, there was no evidence of systematic attempts to manipulate 
the elections or their results, and critics concluded that the 
irregularities which did occur did not alter the outcome of the 
presidential vote.

The August elections introduced a number of innovations to the 
Mexican electoral process, many resulting from electoral reforms 
implemented between 1989 and 1994.  For the first time in Mexican 
history, civic organizations fielded more than 80,000 trained and 
accredited electoral observers throughout the country, foreigners--
many from the United States--were invited to witness the process, and 
numerous independent "quick count" operations and exit polls 
validated the official vote tabulation.  The success of these civic 
organizations' participation in the 1994 elections led to similar 
activities in many of the state and local elections which followed.

Over the years, the PRI has relied on extensive patronage and massive 
government and party organizational resources to maintain its 
continuance in power.  In some cases, the party has been accused of 
fraud.  However, as numerous electoral reforms implemented since 
1989 have aided in the further opening of the Mexican political system, 
opposition parties have made historic gains in elections at all levels.

In 1989, the PAN became the first opposition party to come to power 
in a state election by winning the governorship of Baja California.  The 
PAN repeated that success in Chihuahua in 1992.  Following the 1994 
presidential election (in which the PAN candidate achieved the highest 
ever votes for a party standard-bearer), the PAN scored a number of 
significant triumphs, including the governor's offices in Jalisco, 
Guanajuato, and re-election to that office in Baja California.  The 
party has also captured a number of mayoral races, including Mexico's 
largest (after Mexico City) urban centers:  Monterrey (in 1994), 
Guadalajara, Puebla, Leon, Tijuana, and Ciudad Juarez (all in 1995).  
However, the controversial Yucatan state election in May 1995 in 
which the PAN unsuccessfully challenged the results, claiming fraud 
by the victorious PRI candidate, underscored still existing problems in 
Mexico's electoral practices.

In the 1988 federal elections, five opposition parties won an 
unprecedented 237 seats out of 500 in the Chamber of Deputies and 
four seats in the Senate.  In the 1991 mid-term elections, the PRI 
rebounded to capture 320 Chamber seats and all but three seats in the 
Senate.  In the 1994 elections, three opposition parties--PAN, PRD, and 
the Labor Party (PT)--won 200 lower house seats and 33 out of 128 in 
the newly expanded Senate.  Five minor parties failed to obtain the 
legally mandated minimum percentage of the vote in the 1994 
elections.  They either lost their legal registration--in the cases of 
the Mexican Democratic Party (PDM) and the Mexican Green Ecology 
Party (PVEM)--or became ineligible for public campaign financing--in 
the cases of the Popular Socialist Party (PPS), the Authentic Party of 
the Mexican Revolution (PARM), and the Party of the Cardenist Front 
of National Reconstruction (PFCRN).

In his December 1994 inaugural address, President Zedillo recognized 
the need for additional electoral reforms and called for congressional 
action on campaign and party financing, media access, and greater 
autonomy of electoral institutions.  He repeated his campaign pledge to 
separate his government from the ruling PRI party and to remove 
himself from PRI party decision-making, including the selection of 
future candidates.

Following a series of consultations between the executive branch and 
the leadership of Mexico's four major political parties, including a 
first- time meeting between a sitting president and the leaders of the 
opposition PRD, the government and parties on January 17, 1995, 
signed a pact for cooperation on political reform.  In April 1995, they 
established working groups which met sporadically throughout 1995 
and early 1996 to discuss and analyze further reform and the Mexican 
economic situation.  Also in 1995, the parties, the government and 
representatives from civil society initiated a series of informal 
discussions on electoral reform issues.  These talks, known as the 
Chapultepec Seminars (named for the castle in Mexico City where the 
meetings were held) complimented the more formal Government-party 
talks.  In early 1996, two sets of reform legislation were introduced 
before the Congress:  one submitted jointly by the PRI, PRD and PT; 
the other by the PAN.  The Congress anticipates debate on the 
proposals and enactment of legislation in time for implementation for 
the 1997 federal congressional elections.

Other reforms

To oversee a profound reorganization of the Mexican justice system, 
President Zedillo appointed as attorney general a respected member of 
the opposition PAN party, the first time an opposition member has held 
a cabinet post in Mexico.  As the first steps in reforming the justice 
system in Mexico, constitutional amendments were adopted in 
December 1994 to improve the performance and accountability of the 
Supreme Court and the Office of the Attorney General and the 
administration of federal courts.

Under the new provisions, Supreme Court and attorney general 
nominees are to be confirmed by the Senate and, in the case of the 
Supreme Court, serve for a fixed period.  The Supreme Court, relieved 
of administrative duties for lower courts, was given responsibilities 
for judicial review of certain categories of law and legislation.  In 
1996, the Zedillo administration continued its justice reform efforts by 
seeking congressional authority to restructure the Attorney General's 
office and the federal police force.

Although the constitution provides for three branches of government, 
traditionally the Mexican presidency occupies a position of 
overwhelming dominance.  The Zedillo administration is seeking to 
develop a greater role for the Mexican Congress, most notably by 
inviting the participation of a multi-party legislative commission in 
the Chiapas peace negotiations and seeking congressional approval of the 
financial assistance package signed by the U.S. and Mexico in 
February 1995.  In his "state of the nation" address in September 1995, 
Zedillo urged the Congress to create an oversight commission with the 
powers to monitor and oversee the correct use of public resources by 
the legislative and executive branches.

Zedillo has also initiated efforts to broaden the ability of state and 
local governments to have an active role in governance.  A pilot effort 
to devolve limited powers and resources from federal to state offices 
was proposed for Guanajuato in 1996.


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 proportionately smaller 
impact on the U.S.  In recent years Mexico has continued to seek 
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), and in January 1995, along with most of the 
world's nations, Mexico became a founding member of the World 
Trade Organization (WTO).  Mexico was the first Latin American 
member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), 
joining in 1993.

Mexico's NAFTA membership helped the Mexican economy grow by 
3.5 percent 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 (the IMF, the Bank of International Settlements 
and central banks from Canada and European and Latin American 
nations) in making available to Mexico over $40 billion in international 
financial assistance, including $20 billion from the United States.

Although Mexico suffered through a severe recession in 1995, with 
real GDP falling 6.9 percent, the Mexican Government's 
implementation of tough stabilization measures averted an even more 
serious collapse.  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.

The Mexican Government has already repaid $2 billion of the $12.5 
billion in funding it received from the United States, and it has been 
able to borrow over $7 billion on commercial terms in international 
financial markets over the past year.  Moreover, as Mexico entered 
1996 there were mounting signs that its economy had begun to recover.  
Inflation, unemployment, and interest rates are all well below their 
1995 peaks, and the peso exchange rate has stabilized.  Most private 
sector forecasters expect the Mexican economy to grow by 2 to 3 
percent in 1995.


Mexico was the United States' third-ranked trading partner in 1995, 
purchasing 73 per cent of its imports from the United States and 
sending 84 per cent of its exports to the United States.  The chief U.S. 
exports to Mexico were motor vehicle parts, office equipment, and 
agricultural products; the top imports from Mexico included petroleum, 
cars and coffee.  The United States in 1995 was the source of 60 
percent of direct foreign investment in Mexico.

In 1994, the first year of NAFTA implementation, U.S.-Mexico trade 
totaled $100 billion, an increase of 23 per cent over 1993.  The 
December 1994, peso devaluation and the severe contraction of 
demand in the domestic economy brought about by the economic crisis 
changed the U.S. bilateral trade surplus into a $15 billion deficit in 
1995.  Despite the economic downturn, U.S. exports to Mexico in 1995 
still were 11 percent higher than in 1993, the top pre-NAFTA year.  
Mexican demand for U.S. goods is expected to increase during 1996 as 
the economy recovers, and this tendency had already begun to show in 
the first quarter.

NAFTA eliminates restrictions on the flow of goods, services, and 
investment in North America.  In addition to phasing out tariffs, 
NAFTA eliminates, as far as possible, non-tariff barriers and promotes 
safeguards for intellectual property rights - patents, copyrights, and 
trademarks.  The pact also includes provisions on trade rules and 
dispute settlement, and its parallel labor agreement seeks to ensure 
full protection of workers' rights.

Through its supplemental environmental cooperation agreement, 
NAFTA marked the first time in the history of U.S. trade policy that 
environmental concerns have been addressed in a comprehensive trade 
agreement.  The pact also serves as a basis for enhancing ongoing U.S.-
Mexico cooperation on a host of other issues that do not respect 
national borders.  As the two countries stand on the threshold of the 
21st century, their ability to cooperate on issues such as migration and 
narcotics control continues to be of critical importance.


Mexico's agrarian reform program began in 1917, when the 
government began distributions to landless farmers.  Extended further 
in the 1930's, this cooperative agrarian reform, which guaranteed small 
farmers a means of subsistence livelihood, also caused land 
fragmentation and lack of capital investment, since commonly-held 
land could not be used as collateral.  This, combined with poor soil, 
several recent years of low rainfall, and rural population growth, has 
made it difficult to raise the productivity and living standards of 
Mexico's subsistence farmers.

Mexico's agricultural sector continues to experience heavy debt 
problems, even as the government seeks to foster a shift to a market-
oriented and competitive farming industry.  High interest rates for 
agricultural loans have compounded the difficulty for producers, and 
the peso crisis exacerbated the decline in productivity.  According to 
the Mexican Government's office of statistics, agriculture accounted for 
7.7 percent of GDP in 1995.

In an effort to raise rural productivity and living standards, Article 
27 of the Mexican Constitution was amended in 1992 to allow for the 
transfer of communal land to the individual farmers cultivating it.  
They then could rent or sell it, opening the way for larger farms and 
economies of scale.  By early 1996, however, only six farmers' 
cooperatives had voted to disincorporate.  As communal land use is 
formally reviewed  only every two years, privatization of these 
communal lands may continue to be very slow.

In the past, the government encouraged production of basic crops such 
as corn and beans by maintaining support prices for these products.  In 
order to rationalize its agricultural sector, Mexico is abandoning its 
support price scheme.  Corn production dropped in 1995 as more was 
imported, and a further drop in production is forecast for 1996.  The 
government in 1996 is instead crafting federal-to-state agreements 
targeted at each states' most urgent needs, with the basic goal of 
increasing the use of modern equipment and technology in order to 
increase per-acre productivity.

In addition to this new initiative, the government is continuing 
PROCAMPO, the rural support program which provides the 
approximately 3.5 million farmers who produce basic commodities - 
about 64 percent of all farmers - with a fixed payment per hectare of 

Manufacturing and Foreign Investment

Mexico's manufacturing sector in early 1996 accounts for 22 percent of 
the GDP and 21 percent of employment in the formal urban economy. 
During Mexico's recession in 1995, manufacturing declined 6.1 
percent, after having grown 3.6 percent in 1994.

The industrial sector as a whole, which along with manufacturing 
includes construction, electricity and mining, declined by 6.6 percent 
1995, following growth of 4.1 percent in 1994.  Construction suffered 
the sharpest cutback in 1995, declining 19.8 percent.

In December 1993, Mexico passed a new foreign investment law which 
promotes competitiveness and established clear rules for the entry of 
international capital into productive activities.  The law also permits 
foreigners to own non-residential property in the "restricted zones" - 
within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the border and 50 kilometers of the 
coasts.  Residential property in these zones still must be acquired via 
a trust through a Mexican financial institution.  Total new direct 
foreign investment in 1995 was $7 billion, down from $11 billion in 
1994.  A recovery to at least $8 billion is widely predicted for 1996.

Transportation and Communications

The Zedillo administration is continuing the previous government's 
modernization of infrastructure and services, deregulation and 
development of more efficient transport systems, and increased 

Mexico's land transportation network is one of the most extensive in 
Latin America.  More than 4,000 kilometers (2,400 miles) of four-lane 
highway have been built through government concessions to private 
sector contractors since 1989.  The 36,000 kilometers (22,000 miles) of 
railroads in Mexico are currently government-owned.  However, the 
government has announced plans to privatize parts of the railroad.

Tampico and Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico, are Mexico's two 
primary seaports.  Recognizing that the low productivity of Mexico's 
79 ports poses a threat to trade development, the government plans to 
privatize port operations to improve their efficiency.

A number of international airlines serve Mexico, with direct or 
connecting flights from most major cities in the United States, Canada, 
Europe, Japan, and Latin America.  Most Mexican regional capitals 
and resorts have direct air service to Mexico City or the United States.

Mexico has taken significant steps to modernize its 
telecommunications system.  A key element was the privatization in 
1990 of the national telephone company, Telefonos de Mexico 
(TELMEX), which was sold to a consortium of Mexican investors, 
Southwestern Bell, and France Telcom.  This privatization has meant 
an increased rate of infrastructure enhancement.  In addition, eight 
regional companies are providing cellular telephone service to various 
parts of Mexico, resulting in a dramatic expansion of cellular telephone 
users.  Two larger communications satellites have been ordered to 
replace the two now in use.  The government has also opened the 
telecommunications sector to greater foreign investment.  Starting in 
1997, long-distance telecommunications service will be a competitive 
industry in Mexico.


The Government of Mexico has sought to maintain its interests abroad 
and project its influence largely through moral persuasion.  In 
particular, Mexico champions the principles of non-intervention and 
self-determination.  In its efforts to revitalize its economy and open 
up to international competition, Mexico has sought closer relations with 
the U.S., Western Europe, and the Pacific Basin.  While the United 
States and Mexico are often in agreement on foreign policy issues, 
some differences remain--in particular, relations with Cuba.  The U.S. 
and Mexico agree on the ultimate goal of establishing a democratic, 
free-market regime in Cuba but disagree on tactics to reach that goal.

Mexico actively participates in several international organizations.  It 
is a supporter of the UN and Organization of American States systems 
and also pursues its interests through a number of ad hoc international 
bodies.  Mexico has been selective in its membership in other 
international organizations.  It declined, for example, to become a 
member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.  
Nevertheless, Mexico does seek to diversify its diplomatic and 
economic relations, as demonstrated by its accession to GATT in 1986; 
its joining APEC in 1993; and its becoming, in April 1994, the first 
Latin American member of the OECD.  Mexico attended the 1994 
Summit of the Americas, held in Miami, and agreed to assume 
responsibility for coordination of the Summit Action Plan agenda item 
on universal access to quality education.


Relations between the U.S. and Mexico are among the most important 
and complex that each nation maintains.  They are shaped by a mixture 
of mutual interests, shared problems, and growing interdependence.

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.  Along 
the 2,000-mile shared border, state and local governments interact 
closely.  The two countries cooperate to resolve many issues, ranging 
from combating cross-border criminality to improving and protecting 
the shared environment.

A stable and economically prosperous Mexico is fundamental to U.S. 
interests.  Both governments actively discuss ways to improve 
cooperation on an array of bilateral issues.  Since 1981, this process 
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 an array of topics, 
including trade and investment opportunities, financial cooperation, 
counternarcotics, 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 

U.S. Embassy Officials

Ambassador--James R. Jones
Deputy Chief of Mission--Charles H. Brayshaw
Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs--Barbro A. Owens-Kirkpatrick
Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs--Daniel L. Dolan
Counselor for Labor Affairs--Richard Booth
Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs (USIS)--Donald R. Hamilton
Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs--Bruce Beardsley
Consul General--Thomas L. Randall, Jr.
Counselor for Scientific and Technological Affairs--S. Ahmed Meer
Counselor for Commercial Affairs--Kevin C. Brennan

The U.S. embassy in Mexico is located at Paseo de la Reforma 305, 
06500 Mexico, DF.  U.S. Mailing Address:  Box 3087, Laredo, Texas  
78044-3087.  Telephone (from the U.S.):  (011)(52-5) 211-0042.

U.S. Consulates General and Consulates and Officials

Consulate General, Ciudad Juarez--Larry Colbert
  Address: Avenida Lopez Mateos 924-N, 32000 Ciudad Juarez, 
  Mailing Address: Box 10545, El Paso, Texas  79995-0545
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-16) 13-4048

Consulate General, Guadalajara--Danny B. Root
  Address: Progreso 175, 44100 Guadalajara, Jalisco
  Mailing Address: Box 3088, Laredo, Texas  78044-3088
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-36) 25-2998

Consulate General Monterrey--Eileen M. Heaphy
  Address: Avenida Constitucion 411 Poniente, 64000 Monterrey, 
Nuevo Leon
  Mailing Address: Box 3098, Laredo, Texas  78044-3098
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-83) 45-2120

Consulate General Tijuana--Norman Singer
  Address: Tapachula 96, 22320 Tijuana, Baja California
  Postal Address: P.O. Box 439039, San Diego, California  92143-9039
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-66) 81-7400

Consulate, Hermosillo--Vacant
  Address: Monterrey 141, 83260 Hermosillo, Sonora
  Postal Address: Box 3598, Laredo, Texas  78044-3598
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-62) 17-2375

Consulate, Matamoros--Atim E. Ogunba
  Address: Calle Primera 2002, Matamoros, Tamaulipas
  Postal Address: Box 633, Brownsville, Texas  78522-0633
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-88) 12-4402

Consulate, Merida--David R. Van Valkenberg
  Address: Paseo Montejo 453, 97000 Merida, Yucatan
  Postal Address: Box 3087, Laredo, Texas  78044-3087
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-99) 25-6366

Consulate, Nuevo Laredo--Isiah L. Parnell
  Address: Calle Allende 3330, Col. Jardin, 88260 Nuevo Laredo, 
  Postal Address: Box 3089, Laredo, Texas  78044-3089
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-871) 4-0512

Consular Agents

Acapulco--Lambert J. Urbanek
  Address: Hotel Club del Sol, Acapulco, Guerrero
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-748) 5-7207 or 5-6600

Cabo San Lucas--Robin A. Hanni
  Address: Blvd. Marina Y Perdregal, Local No. 3, Zona Centro, Cabo 
San Lucas, Baja California Sur
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-114) 3-3566

Cancun--Carol Butler
  Address: Plaza Caracol 2, 3o piso, 320323 Blvd. Kukulcan, Km. 8.5 
Zona Hotelera, Cancun, Quintana Roo
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-988) 3-0272

Mazatlan--Jerianne Nelson Gallardo
  Address: Hotel Playa Mazatlan, Roldolfo T. Loaiza 202, Zona 
Dorada, 82110 Mazatlan, Sinaloa
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-69) 13-4444, ext. 285

Oaxaca--Mark A. Leyes
  Address: Alcala 201, Oaxaca
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-95) 4-3054

Puerto Vallarta--Laura Holstrom
  Address: Parian del Puente, Local 12-A, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-322) 2-0069

San Luis Potosi--Kathleen C. Reza
  Address: Francisco de P. Martel 102, Desp. 1, San Luis Potosi,
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-481) 2-1528

San Miguel de Allende--Philip Maher
  Address: Dr. Hernandez Macias 72, San Miguel de Allende, 
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-465) 2-2357 or 2-0068

Tampico--Mary Elizabeth Alzaga
  Address: Avenida Hidalgo 2000, Local 4, Tampico, Tamaulipas
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-12) 13-2217

Veracruz--Edwin L. Culp
  Address: Victimas del 25 de Junio 388, Veracruz
  Telephone (from the U.S.): (011)(52-29) 31-5821

U.S.-Mexico Cooperation On the Environment

The Governments of the United States and Mexico have a long history 
of cooperation on environmental and natural resources issues.  
Improving the environment and conserving natural resources in both 
countries continues to be a focus of collaborative efforts, particularly 
in the border areas, 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 progressively more comprehensive agreements such as:

--  The 1936 Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds and 
Game Mammals;

--  The 1944 Water Treaty--border water sanitation problems are 
primarily addressed by the International Boundary and Water 
Commission within the framework of this treaty, with assistance from 
EPA and in collaboration with the new institutions established under 
parallel NAFTA agreements; and

--  The 1983 La Paz Agreement to Protect and Improve the Border 
Environment--there are now six working groups under the 1983 
agreement that address water quality, air pollution, waste disposal, 
emergency response, enforcement, and pollution prevention.

Bilateral efforts have been expanded under more recent agreements 
that address wildlife, parks, forests, and other conservation areas.

In 1992, the United States and Mexico developed the Integrated Border 
Environment Plan, under which the two countries have worked to 
construct wastewater treatment plants; strengthen enforcement efforts; 
reduce pollution; strengthen cooperative planning, training, and 
education; and improve understanding of the border environment.  The 
second phase of the 1992 border plan, to be called "Border XXI," is 
currently under development.  The plan will promote environmental 
protection and sustainable development in the U.S.-Mexico border 
region through increased public participation and improved 
coordination among local, state and federal agencies to maximize 
cooperative and effective usage of limited resources.  In addition, the 
plan will encompass environmental health issues and natural resource 

NAFTA spurred the creation of new environmental institutions to 
complement and enhance those already in place.

--  As part of NAFTA's environmental agreement, the U.S., Mexico, 
and Canada have created a North American Commission on 
Environmental Cooperation, which will strengthen environmental laws 
and address common environmental concerns.

--  By a November 1993 executive agreement, the U.S. and Mexico 
established two new institutions to address the environmental 
infrastructure needs of the border region:

--The Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC), set  up 
to work with local communities to develop plans for better meeting 
their need for environmental facilities, including wastewater treatment 
plants, drinking water systems, and solid waste disposal facilities; and 

--The North American Development Bank, set up to leverage private 
sector capital to finance the construction of border environmental 
infrastructure projects certified by the BECC.

International Boundary and Water Commission

The International Boundary Commission was established as a 
permanent, joint commission by treaty in 1889.  It was preceded by 
several short-term commissions to survey and mark the boundary after 
its creation in 1848 and modification in 1853.  The Water Treaty of 
1944 extended the boundary commission's authority over the land 
boundary and added to its responsibilities the boundary water problems 
which were becoming more important at the time.  The 1944 treaty 
renamed the body the International Boundary and Water Commission, 
United States and Mexico (IBWC).  It also required that the U.S. and 
Mexican commissioners be engineers.

The IBWC has a wide range of responsibilities and specific programs 
for solution of U.S.-Mexican water and boundary problems.  These 
include distribution between the two countries of the waters of the 
Colorado River and the Rio Grande; joint operation of international 
dams on the Rio Grande to control floods, conserve waters, and 
generate electricity; other joint flood control works along boundary 
rivers; solution of border water quality control problems; and 
stabilization of the river boundaries.  These responsibilities and 
programs are carried out in accordance with various treaties and 

The IBWC has resolved many difficult and long-standing problems.  
For example, the Chamizal Settlement of 1963 resolved a 100-year-old 
dispute at El Paso/Ciudad Juarez by exchange of territory and 
rechanneling the Rio Grande.  A permanent solution to the 
international problem of the salinity of the Colorado River was reached 
in 1973.  Since the early 1980s, the IBWC has focused on troublesome 
border sanitation problems and has been studying groundwater 
resources along the boundary.  The IBWC has a strong complementary 
relationship with the Border Environment Cooperation Commission 
and the North American Development Bank, established under a 
NAFTA parallel agreement.


The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings 
are issued when the Department of State recommends that Americans 
avoid travel to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for 
all countries and include information on immigration practices, 
currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and 
security information, political disturbances, and the addresses of the 
U.S. embassies and consulates in the subject country. They can be 
obtained by telephone at (202) 647-5225 or by fax at (202) 647-3000. 
To access the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board by computer, dial (202) 
647-9225, via a modem with standard settings. Bureau of Consular 
Affairs' publications on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip 
abroad are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. 
Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402 (202) 512-1800.

Emergency information concerning  Americans traveling abroad may 
be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 

While planning a trip, travelers can check the latest information on 
health requirements and conditions with the U.S. Centers for Disease 
Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-
4559 provides telephonic or fax information on the most recent health 
advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and 
advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A 
booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS 
publication number CDC-95-8280, price $14.00) is available from the 
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication). Upon their arrival 
in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the U.S. 
embassy (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this 
publication). Such information might assist family members in making 
contact en route in case of an emergency.

Further Electronic Information:

Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the 
CABB provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and 
helpful information for travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of 
charge to anyone with a personal computer, modem, 
telecommunications software, and telephone line.

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the 
Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. 
foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes 
Background Notes; Dispatch, the official weekly magazine of U.S. 
foreign policy; daily press briefings; directories of key officers of 
foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN is accessible three ways on the 

Gopher:  dosfan.lib.uic.edu
URL:  gopher://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/
WWW:  http://www.state.gov

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly 
basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on 
the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an 
array of official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. 
Priced at $80 ($100 foreign), one-year subscriptions include four discs 
(MSDOS and Macintosh compatible) and are available from the 
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. 
Box 37194, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 
or fax (202) 512-2250.

Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy 
information also is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S. 
Government Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. 
For general BBS information, call (202) 512-1530.

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department 
of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related 
information, including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on 
the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB 
Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.

Return to Western Hemisphere Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage