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
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%.
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
Type: Federal republic.
Independence: First proclaimed September 16, 1810; republic
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
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
-- 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.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
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
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.
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