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Country Profiles: Mexico


Flag, map and facts courtesy of CIA World Factbook 2002

Background The site of advanced Amerindian civilizations, Mexico came under Spanish rule for three centuries before achieving independence early in the 19th century. A devaluation of the peso in late 1994 threw Mexico into economic turmoil, triggering the worst recession in over half a century. The nation continues to make an impressive recovery. Ongoing economic and social concerns include low real wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution, and few advancement opportunities for the largely Amerindian population in the impoverished southern states. Elections held in July 2000 marked the first time since the 1910 Mexican Revolution that the opposition defeated the party in government, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN) was sworn in on 1 December 2000 as the first chief executive elected in free and fair elections.
Location Middle America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, between Belize and the U.S. and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and the U.S.

Map of Mexico
Area total: 1,972,550 sq km
land: 1,923,040 sq km
water: 49,510 sq km
Area - comparative slightly less than three times the size of Texas
Climate varies from tropical to desert
Terrain high, rugged mountains; low coastal plains; high plateaus; desert
Elevation extremes lowest point: Laguna Salada -10 m
highest point: Volcan Pico de Orizaba 5,700 m
Natural resources petroleum, silver, copper, gold, lead, zinc, natural gas, timber
Land use arable land: 13%
permanent crops: 1%
other: 86% (1998 est.)
Natural hazards tsunamis along the Pacific coast, volcanoes and destructive earthquakes in the center and south, and hurricanes on the Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean coasts
Environment - current issues scarcity of hazardous waste disposal facilities; rural to urban migration; natural fresh water resources scarce and polluted in north, inaccessible and poor quality in center and extreme southeast; raw sewage and industrial effluents polluting rivers in urban areas; deforestation; widespread erosion; desertification; deteriorating agricultural lands; serious air and water pollution in the national capital and urban centers along U.S.-Mexico border; land subsidence in Valley of Mexico caused by groundwater depletion note: the government considers the lack of clean water and deforestation national security issues
Geography - note strategic location on southern border of U.S.
Population 103,400,165 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure 0-14 years: 32.8% (male 17,310,230; female 16,630,935)
15-64 years: 62.7% (male 31,552,877; female 33,246,668)
65 years and over: 4.5% (male 2,069,826; female 2,589,629) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate 1.47% (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate 24.52 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth total population: 72.03 years
female: 75.21 years (2002 est.)
male: 68.99 years
Ethnic groups mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish) 60%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian 30%, white 9%, other 1%
Religions nominally Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 6%, other 5%
Languages Spanish, various Mayan, Nahuatl, and other regional indigenous languages
Literacy definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 89.6%
male: 91.8%
female: 87.4% (1995 est.)
Government type federal republic
Capital Mexico (Distrito Federal)
Independence 16 September 1810 (from Spain)
Legal system mixture of U.S. constitutional theory and civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
Suffrage 18 years of age; universal and compulsory (but not enforced)
Flag description three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), white, and red; the coat of arms (an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in its beak) is centered in the white band

Flag of Mexico
Economy - overview Mexico has a free market economy with a mixture of modern and outmoded industry and agriculture, increasingly dominated by the private sector. Recent administrations have expanded competition in seaports, railroads, telecommunications, electricity, natural gas distribution, and airports. Income distribution remains highly unequal. Trade with the U.S. and Canada has tripled since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994. Following 6.9% growth in 2000, real GDP fell 0.3% in 2001, with the U.S. slowdown the principal cause. Positive developments in 2001 included a drop in inflation to 6.5%, a sharp fall in interest rates, and a strong peso that appreciated 5% against the dollar. Mexico City implemented free trade agreements with Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and the European Free Trade Area in 2001, putting more than 90% of trade under free trade agreements. Foreign direct investment reached $25 billion in 2001, of which $12.5 billion came from the purchase of Mexico's second largest bank, Banamex, by Citigroup.
GDP - per capita purchasing power parity - $9,000 (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line 40% (2001 est.)
Labor force 39.8 million (2000)
Unemployment rate urban - 3% plus considerable underemployment (2001)
Industries food and beverages, tobacco, chemicals, iron and steel, petroleum, mining, textiles, clothing, motor vehicles, consumer durables, tourism
Agriculture - products corn, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, cotton, coffee, fruit, tomatoes; beef, poultry, dairy products; wood products
Exports - commodities manufactured goods, oil and oil products, silver, fruits, vegetables, coffee, cotton
Imports - commodities metalworking machines, steel mill products, agricultural machinery, electrical equipment, car parts for assembly, repair parts for motor vehicles, aircraft, and aircraft parts

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