Background Notes: Mexico 5/99

OFFICIAL NAME: United Mexican States



Area: 1,972,500 sq. km. (761,600 sq. mi.); about three times the size of
Cities: Capital–Mexico City (15 million, 1990 census). Other
–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 (1997 est.): 95 million.
Annual growth rate (net): 1.8%.
Ethnic groups: Indian-Spanish (mestizo) 60%, Indian 30%, Caucasian 9%, other
Religions: Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 6%, other 5%.
Language: Spanish.
Education: Years compulsory–12. Literacy–89%.
Health (1996 est.): Infant mortality rate–30/1,000. Life expectancy–male
70 yrs., female 76 yrs.
Labor force (1996, 35 million): Agriculture, forestry, hunting,
–26%. Services–24%. Commerce–24%. Manufacturing–15%.
Construction–6%. Transportation and communication–4%. Mining and


Type: Federal republic.
Independence: First proclaimed September 16, 1810; republic established
Constitution: February 5, 1917.
Branches: Executive–president (chief of state and head of government).
Legislative–bicameral. Judicial–Supreme Court, local and federal systems.
Administrative subdivisions: 31 states and a federal district.
Political parties: Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), National Action
Party (PAN), Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Green Ecological
Party (PVEM), Labor Party (PT), and several small parties.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.


GDP (1998): $415 billion.
Per capita GDP (1998): $4,360.

Annual real GDP growth: 1998, 4.6%; 1997, 7%; 1996, 5.1%; 1995, -6.2%.
Avg. annual real GDP growth (1993-97): 2.04%.
Inflation rate (1997 est.): 16%; 1996, 28%.
Natural resources: Petroleum, silver, copper, gold, lead, zinc, natural gas,
Agriculture (5.6% of GDP): Products–corn, beans, oilseeds, feedgrains,
fruit, cotton, coffee, sugarcane, winter vegetables.
Industry (26% of GDP): Types–manufacturing (19.1%), petroleum and mining.
Services (62.9% of GDP): Types–personal services (19.7%), commerce and
tourism (18.9%), financial services (14.8%), transportation and
communications (9.5%).
Trade (1998, Bank of Mexico): Merchandise exports–$117.5 billion:
manufacturing 90%, petroleum and derivatives 6%, agriculture 3%, other 1%.
Major markets–U.S. (88%), Europe (4%), South America (3%), Canada (1%).
Imports–$125.2 billion: intermediate goods 80%, capital goods 10%, consumer
goods 11.1%, other 3%. Major sources–U.S. (78%), Europe (7%), Japan (5%),
Canada (2%). Imports from U.S.–$79 billion. Exports to U.S.–$95
billion (1998, U.S. Department of Commerce).

Average exchange rate (May 1999): 9.3 pesos=U.S.$1.


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


Highly advanced cultures, including those of the Olmecs, Mayas, Toltecs, and
Aztecs, existed 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 1855. 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 (1864-67). 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 the 1917 constitution. Prominent
leaders in this period — some of whom 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. It emerged as a coalition of interests after
the chaos of the revolution as a vehicle for keeping political competition
in peaceful channels. For almost 70 years, Mexico’s national 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 branches. In practice,
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 6-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 composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. Consecutive
re-election is prohibited. Senators are elected to 6-year terms.
Implementing constitutional changes made in 1996, for the first time in the
July 1997 elections, 32 of the 128 Senate seats were proportionally elected
from national party lists. The 32 senators elected in 1997 will only serve
3-year terms, in order to bring the entire Senate back into the same cycle
in the year 2000. Deputies serve 3-year terms. In the lower chamber, 300
deputies are directly elected to represent single-member districts, and 200
are selected by a modified form of proportional representation from five
electoral regions created for this purpose across the country. The 200
proportional representation seats were created to help smaller parties gain
access to the Chamber.

The judiciary is divided into federal and state court systems, with federal
courts having jurisdiction over most civil cases and those involving major
felonies. Under the constitution, trial and sentencing must be completed
within 12 months of arrest for crimes that would carry at least a 2-year
sentence. Practice often does not meet this requirement. Trial is by judge,
not jury, in most 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 1997 numbered about 175,000. The army makes up
about three-fourths of the total. One year of limited training is required
of all males at age 18. Principal military roles include national defense,
narcotics control, and civic action assignments such as road-building,
search and rescue, and disaster relief.

Principal Government Officials

President–Ernesto ZEDILLO Ponce de Leon
Foreign Minister–Rosario GREEN Macias
Ambassador to the U.S.–Jesus REYES HEROLES
Ambassador to the United Nations–Manuel TELLO Macias
Ambassador to the OAS–Claude HELLER Roussant

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. 202-728-1686).

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 continued the process already underway of 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. A severe financial crisis
occupied much of the Zedillo Administration’s attention in 1995-96, creating
a need for difficult emergency economic stabilization policies and intensified
longer-term economic restructuring.

Political Scene

Unexpected and traumatic events in early 1994 convulsed the Mexican
political scene. In January 1994, peasants in the state of Chiapas briefly
took up arms against the government, protesting alleged oppression and
governmental indifference to poverty. After nearly 2 weeks of fighting,
clashes were halted by a cease-fire that remains in effect. The government
and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) have negotiated on
topics such as granting greater autonomy to indigenous people since then,
although the partial accords that were reached have not been implemented.
Following the massacre of 45 indigenous peasants in Acteal, Chiapas in
December 1997, tensions in the state increased and pressures for a
negotiated settlement were renewed. Government attempts to re-engage the
EZLN in direct talks have so far been unsuccessful.

In March 1994, PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was assassinated.
In September 1994, PRI Secretary General Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu was also
assassinated. Although the gunmen in both murders and co-conspirators in the
Ruiz Massieu murder were tried and convicted, the Mexican public is not satisfied
that all the truth behind these crimes has been uncovered. A flurry of public
scandals followed in 1995 regarding supposed attempts at obstruction of justice
and allegations of major corruption in police, judicial, military, and other
authorities, as well as big business, including allegations of ties to narcotics
trafficking. Raul Salinas, the brother of former President Carlos Salinas, was
onvicted in 1999 of being the mastermind of the Ruiz Massieu assassination.
Carlos Salinas is still publicly reviled for his role in the 1994-95 economic
collapse and remains in self-imposed exile in Ireland.

A new group of uncertain origin and size, the Popular Revolutionary Army
(EPR), made its appearance in southern Mexico on June 28, 1996. The
government considers the EPR a terrorist organization and has vowed to bring
the group to justice. The EPR and a split-off group continue to engage in
sporadic small-scale actions in the southern state of Guerrero.

Recent Elections and Electoral Reform

A record 78% of registered voters cast ballots in the 1994 presidential
election. Election officials declared Zedillo of the PRI the winner with 49%
of the vote, followed by 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. Civic organizations fielded more than 80,000 trained electoral
observers; 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.

Numerous electoral reforms implemented since 1989 have aided in the opening
of the Mexican political system, and opposition parties have made historic
gains in elections at all levels. Most of the concerns shifted from fraud to
campaign fairness issues. During 1995-96 the political parties negotiated
constitutional amendments to address these issues. Implementing legislation
included major points of consensus that had been worked out with the
opposition parties. The thrust of the new laws is to have public financing
predominate over private contributions to political parties, to tighten
procedures for auditing the political parties, and to strengthen the
authority and independence of electoral institutions. The court system was
also given greatly expanded authority to hear civil rights cases on
electoral matters brought by individuals or groups. In short, a serious
effort was made to “level the playing field” for the parties.

Even before the new electoral law was passed, opposition parties had
obtained an increasing voice in Mexico’s political system. A substantial
number of candidates from opposition parties had won election to the Chamber of
Deputies and Senate. Many municipalities were governed by opposition mayors,
and the PAN won the governorships of four states.

Mid-term elections held July 6, 1997, saw large gains for opposition parties
and marked a significant step in Mexico’s political transformation. For the
first time in its 68-year history, the PRI lost its absolute majority in the
Chamber of Deputies. The opposition majority is split among four parties:
the PRD, the PAN and two small parties, the Labor Party (PT), and the Green
Ecological Party (PVEM). The opposition also gained ground in the Senate,
where the PRI still retains an overall majority but fell below the
two-thirds majority needed on constitutional amendment questions.

In another important electoral development, the PRD candidate, Cuauhtemoc
Cardenas, won the first modern election for mayor of Mexico City (this post
was previously appointed by the Mexican president). In state elections, the
PAN won two additional governorships, giving it a total of six. More than
50% of Mexico’s population is now governed by an opposition party at the
state or municipal level.

State-level elections held in 1998 tended to confirm the increasing political
pluralism in Mexico. While the PRI regained the governorship of one state from
the PAN and held on to several others, the PAN won the state house in yet
another state for the first time, and PRD candidates won two gubernatorial
elections (the first such PRD victories).

Attention in Mexico is turning to the maneuvering for presidential elections
in 2000, which promise to be the most competitive in modern Mexican history.
In May 1999, the PRI broke with its tradition of the president hand picking his
successor by instituting an open primary candidate selection process.

Other Reforms

Constitutional and legal changes have been adopted in recent years to improve
the performance and accountability of the Supreme Court and the Office of the
Attorney General and the administration of federal courts. The Supreme Court,
relieved of administrative duties for lower courts, was given responsibilities
for judicial review of certain categories of law and legislation. A variety of
laws was also passed in 1995-96 to help control organized crime.

Although the constitution provides for three branches of government, the
Mexican presidency traditionally occupies a dominant position. In order to
overcome this “presidentialism,” the Zedillo Administration has sought to
develop a greater role for the Congress, 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. Congress’ role as a co-equal balance
to the Executive also received a boost after the July 1997 increase in
opposition strength to control a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. The
judicial reforms mentioned above are in part designed to allow the judicial
branch of government to become a more effective counter-weight to the other
two branches. The Zedillo administration has also promoted a “New Federalism”
to devolve more power to state and local governments, starting with pilot programs
in education and health.


Although educational levels in Mexico have improved substantially in recent
decades, the country still faces daunting problems. Education is one of the
Government of Mexico’s highest priorities and it has increased the education
budget 7.2% over 1996 to $15 billion for 1997 — one-fourth of the total
budget. Education in Mexico is also being decentralized from federal to
state authority in order to improve accountability.

Education is mandatory from ages 6 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 6 and 18 were enrolled
in school. Primary (including preschool) enrollment in public schools from
1970-94 increased from less than 10 million to 17.5 million.

Enrollment at the secondary public school level rose from 1.4 million in
1972 to as many as 4.5 million in 1994. A rapid rise also occurred in higher
education. Between 1959-94, college enrollments rose from 62,000 to
more than 1.2 million. Although education spending has risen dramatically
given increased enrollment, a net decline occurred in per student
expenditures. The Mexican Government concedes that despite this progress,
2 million children still do not have access to basic education, and it hopes to
provide access to half of those children by the year 2000.


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 proportionally smaller impact on the U.S. as
it affects trade and migration. In recent years, Mexico has sought 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). Mexico was the first Latin
American member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) —
joining in 1993 — and in January 1996, became a founding member of the World
Trade Organization (WTO). Mexico’s NAFTA membership helped the Mexican
economy grow by 3.5% 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 in
making available to Mexico over $40 billion in international financial
assistance, including $20 billion from the United States. This action helped
stabilize the Mexican economy, allowing Mexico to repay the loans to the
United States more than 3 years ahead of schedule and with $580 million in

In 1996, Mexico’s economy grew over 5%, recovering from the recession more
briskly than anticipated. Inflation fell, unemployment fell, and the peso
stabilized. Mexican real GDP grew about 7% in 1997. The global financial
turmoil of 1998 has caused the peso to fall against the dollar, a sharp
decline in the Mexican stock market, and three reductions in government
spending. However, economic growth for 1998 was about 4.6%. Since mid-
January 1999, both the value of the peso and the Mexican stock market have
risen strongly. Although the 1995 recession was severe, with real GDP falling
6.2%, tough stabilization measures averted an even more serious collapse and
brought about a rapid recovery. 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.


Mexico was the United States’ third-ranked trading partner in 1997,
accounting for 10% of U.S. trade. In 1998, $79 billion in merchandise
exports to Mexico dramatically surpassed our exports to Japan at $58 billion,
maintaining Mexico as our second-most important export market, even though
the Mexican economy is just one-seventh the size of Japan’s. The United States
was Mexico’s predominant trading partner, accounting for 88% of Mexican exports
and 78% of Mexican imports. The chief U.S. exports to Mexico were motor vehicle
parts, electronic equipment, and agricultural products; the top imports from
Mexico included petroleum, motor vehicles, and electronic equipment. The United
States in 1996 was the source of 60% of all direct foreign investment in

U.S.-Mexico trade increased during NAFTA’s first 5 years. In 1998, U.S.
exports to Mexico were up 90% and U.S. imports from Mexico grew nearly 140% over
1993 levels. By 1999, U.S. exports to Mexico will likely have doubled from pre-
NAFTA levels. Our trade balance with Mexico shifted from surplus to deficit in
1995 when strong growth in U.S. demand, along with the Mexican recession and
devaluation of the peso, increased U.S. imports from Mexico while slowing growth
in U.S. exports. However, our bilateral trade deficit began to shrink in 1997 as
the Mexican recovery gathered steam.

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.


Mexico’s agrarian reform program began in 1917, when the government began
distribution of land to farmers. Extended further in the 1930s, 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 loans have compounded
the difficulty for producers, and the 1994 peso crisis exacerbated the
decline in productivity. Agriculture accounted for 5.2% of GDP in 1998.

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 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. Since
communal land use is formally reviewed only every 2 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. In order to rationalize its
agricultural sector, Mexico is phasing out its support price scheme. Corn
production dropped in 1995 and 1996 as more was imported. The government in
1996 crafted federal-to-state agreements targeted at each states’ most
urgent needs, with the 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% of all farmers — with a
fixed payment per hectare of cropland.

Manufacturing and Foreign Investment

Mexico’s manufacturing sector in the first 9 months of 1997 accounted for
19% of Mexico’s GDP and 16% of employment. Manufacturing grew at a 10%
annual rate through September 1997 after growing about 11% in 1996.
Manufacturing declined 5% during Mexico’s recession in 1995.

The industrial sector as a whole, which along with manufacturing includes
construction, electricity, and mining, grew at nearly 7% rate in
1998, after 9% growth in 1997, 10% growth in 1996, and an 8% drop in 1995.
Construction grew at more than 5% rate in 1998; after 11% growth in 1996 and
1997, after declining 23% in 1996.

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 $9.5
billion, down from $11 billion in 1994. Direct foreign investment of about
$8 billion took place in 1996; in 1997 and 1998 it averaged about $11 billion.

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 privatization. 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 government completed its privatization of 36,000 kilometers
(22,000 miles) of state-owned railroads in 1998 through the sale of 50-year
operating concessions. The Northeast railroad, Mexico’s primary freight carrier,
was privatized early in 1997 for $1.4 billion. Another significant section, the
Northwest railroad, was privatized in June 1997 for $400 million, and the South
Eastern concession was privatized in 1998.

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 has steadily been privatizing
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. More U.S. carriers serve Mexico than any other country,
with nine of the top 10 U.S. carriers providing service. Most Mexican regional
capitals and resorts have direct air service to Mexico City or the United States.
Airport privatization, based on the successful experience with ports, is underway.

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.
Competition in long-distance telecommunications service began in 1997, and
competitors quickly gained a 30% share of the market, although several competition
questions remain. In December 1998, an agreement was concluded on mobile satellite
services (MSS) that will permit services such as Iridium to operate.


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 United Nations 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 OPEC. 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; becoming, in April
1994, the first Latin American member of the OECD; and a founding member of
the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1996. Mexico attended the 1994 Summit
of the Americas, held in Miami, and managed coordination of the agenda item
on education for the 1998 Summit of the Americas in Santiago.


U.S. relations with Mexico are as important and complex as with any country
in the world. A stable, democratic, and economically prosperous Mexico is
fundamental to U.S. interests. U.S. relations with Mexico have a direct
impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans — whether the
issue is trade and economic reform, drug control, migration, or the
promotion of democracy. The U.S. and Mexico are partners in NAFTA, and enjoy
a rapidly developing trade relationship.

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 annual figure of nearly 290 million legal crossings
from Mexico to the United States. In addition, more than a half-million
American citizens live in Mexico. More than 2,600 U.S. companies have
operations there, and the U.S. accounts for 60% of all foreign direct
investment in Mexico. Along the 2,000-mile shared border, state and local
governments interact closely.

Since 1981, the management of the broad array of U.S.-Mexico issues 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 trade and investment opportunities, financial cooperation,
consular issues and migration, legal affairs and anti-narcotics cooperation,
cultural relations, education, energy, border affairs, environment and natural
resources, labor, agriculture, health, housing and urban development, transportation,
fisheries, tourism, and science and technology. The Commission met on
June 10-11, 1998 in Washington, during which the two governments signed new
agreements on border affairs, the environment, public health, transportation
safety, energy, education and cultural heritage. On June 3-4, 1999, the
Commission will meet in Mexico City to build on the presidential meeting in Merida
and continue its work in the many fields making up the broad bilateral relationship.

A strong partnership with Mexico is critical to controlling the flow of
illicit drugs into the United States. The U.S. has certified Mexico as fully
cooperating in this effort based on significant counternarcotics progress in 1998
and a number of new and significant Mexican initiatives in fighting drug trafficking.
This is the best way to ensure that Mexico’s cooperation and anti-drug efforts grow
even stronger.

During 1996, the U.S. and Mexico established a High-Level Contact Group
(HLCG) on narcotics control to explore joint solutions to the shared drug
threat, to coordinate the full range of narcotics issues, and to promote
closer law enforcement coordination. President Zedillo formalized his
government’s commitment to counternarcotics cooperation with the United
States by signing the “Declaration of the Mexican-U.S. Alliance Against Drugs”
with President Clinton in May 1997. The binational alliance worked
throughout 1997 to produce a “U.S.-Mexico Binational Drug Strategy,” a
document which contains 16 alliance objectives, ranging from drug shipment
interdiction to extradition of drug traffickers. Following the controversy
in 1998 over a U.S. money laundering investigation of Mexican banks and
individuals (Operation Casablanca), the two governments agreed on procedures
to improve communication and coordination in cases of sensitive law
enforcement investigations. During their February 1999 meeting in Mexico,
Presidents Clinton and Zedillo adopted comprehensive benchmarks (Performance
Measures of Effectiveness) that both governments will now use to assess how well
the two countries are meeting the goals and objectives of the joint strategy.

Border and Environmental Affairs

Cooperation between the United States and Mexico along our 2,000-mile common
border includes state and local problem-solving mechanisms, transportation
planning, and institutions to address resource and environment issues. In 1993,
the Border Liaison Mechanism (BLM) was established, and now eight BLMs chaired by
U.S. and Mexican consuls operate in “border pair” cities. BLMs have proven to be
effective means of dealing with a variety of local issues ranging from accidental
violation of sovereignty by law enforcement officials and charges of mistreatment
of foreign nationals to coordination of port security and cooperation in public
health matters such as tuberculosis. In conjunction with the 1998 New Border Vision,
the United States and Mexico agreed that each BLM would establish three working
subgroups: Economic and Social Development, Protection/Migration and Border
Crossing Facilitation, and Border Public Safety.

As the number of people and the volume of cargo crossing the U.S.-Mexico border
grows, so too does the need for coordinated infrastructure development. The multi-
agency U.S.-Mexico Binational Group on Bridges and Border Crossings meets twice-
yearly to improve the efficiency of existing crossings and coordinate planning for
new ones. The Binational Group also conducts an annual “Border Walk” to gain a first-hand impression of how border crossings work.

The United States and Mexico have a long history of cooperation on
environmental and natural resource issues, particularly in the border area,
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 agreements such as:

  • An 1889 convention establishing the International Boundary Commission,
    reconstituted by the Water Treaty of 1944 as the International Boundary and
    Water Commission, United States and Mexico (IBWC). The IBWC has settled many
    difficult U.S.-Mexico boundary and water problems, including the
    regularization of the Rio Grande near El Paso through the 1967 Chamizal
    settlement. The IBWC divides the use of international waters, builds and operates
    water conservation and flood control projects, and constructs and maintains
    boundary markers on the land boundary and on international bridges. In recent
    years, the IBWC has worked to resolve long-standing border sanitation problems,
    to monitor the quantity and quality of border groundwaters, and to address water
    delivery and sedimentation problems of the Colorado River.

  • A series of agreements on border health (since 1942), wildlife and
    migratory birds (since 1936), national parks, forests, marine and
    atmospheric resources.

  • The 1983 La Paz Agreement to protect and improve the border environment
    and Border XXI, a binational, interagency planning program, begun in 1996,
    to address environmental, natural resource, and environmental health
    concerns in the border area by identifying and addressing long-term
    objectives and goals into the 21st century.

  • The 1993 North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC),
    creating the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation under
    NAFTA by the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, to strengthen environmental laws and
    address common environmental concerns.

  • A November 1993 agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, also under NAFTA,
    establishing the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC) which
    works with local communities to build or upgrade environmental
    infrastructure such as wastewater treatment plants, drinking water systems,
    and solid waste disposal facilities; and the North American Development Bank
    (NADBank), which leverages private sector capital to finance border
    environmental infrastructure projects certified by the BECC.

Principal U.S. Officials

Ambassador–Jeffrey Davidow
Deputy Chief of Mission–Charles H. Brayshaw
Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs–Valentino Martinez
Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs–William Brew
Counselor for Labor Affairs–John Ritchie
Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs (USIS)–Donald R. Hamilton
Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs–Thomas Furey
Consul General–Victor Abeyta
Counselor for Scientific and Technological Affairs–Larry Kerr
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, Tel.
(from the U.S.): (011)(52-5) 209-9100. Internet:

The embassy and the 19 other U.S. Consulates General, Consulates, and consular
agents provide a range of services to American students, tourists, business people,
and residents throughout Mexico.

U.S. Consulates General, Consulates, and Officials

Consulate General, Ciudad Juarez–James Ward
Address: Avenida Lopez Mateos 924-N, 32000 Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua
Mailing Address: Box 10545, El Paso, Texas 79995-0545
Tel. (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
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-38) 25-2998

Consulate General, Monterrey–Daniel Johnson
Address: Avenida Constitution 411, Poniente, 64000 Monterrey, Nuevo Leon
Mailing Address: Box 3098, Laredo, Texas 78044-3098
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-83) 45-2120

Consulate General, Tijuana–Nick Hahn
Address: Tapachula 96, 22420 Tijuana, Baja California Norte
Postal Address: P.O. Box 439039, San Diego, California 92143-9039
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-66) 81-7400

Consulate, Hermosillo–Sandra Salmon
Address: Calle Monterrey 141 Pte., 83260, Hermosillo, Sonora
Postal Address: Box 3598, Laredo, Texas 78044-3598
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-62) 17-2375

Consulate, Matamoros–George B. Kopf
Address: Ave. Primera 2002, 87330, Matamoros, Tamaulipas
Postal Address: Box 633, Brownsville, Texas 78522-0633
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-88) 12-4402

Consulate, Merida–David Ramos
Address: Paseo Montejo 453, 97000, Merida, Yucatan
Postal Address: Box 3087, Laredo, Texas 78044-3087
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-99) 25-5011

Consulate, Nogales–Jane Gray
Address: Calle San Jose s/n, 84065, Nogales, Sonora
Postal Address: P.O. Box 1729, Nogales, AZ 85628-1729
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-631) 34820

Consulate, Nuevo Laredo–Rufus R. Watkins
Address: Calle Allende 3330, Col. Jardin, 88260 Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas
Postal Address: Box 3089, Laredo, Texas 78044-3089
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-87) 14-0512

Consular Agents

Acapulco–Joyce Anderson
Address: Hotel Acapulco Continental, Costera M. Aleman 121-Local 14
39580 Acapulco, Guerrero
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-74)84-0300 or 69-0556 or 69-0505

Cabo San Lucas–Michael John Houston (to be confirmed)
Address: Blvd. Marina y Pedregal 1, Local No. 3, Zona Centro
Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-114)3-3566

Cancun–Carol Butler
Address: Plaza Caracol 2, #320-323, Blvd. Kukulkan, Km. 8.5 Zona Hotelera
77500 Cancun, Quintana Roo
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-98)83-0272

Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo–Elizabeth Williams
Address: Local 9, Plaza Ambiente, Ixtapa, Guerrero
Home Address: Paseo de los Hujes s/n, Esq. Palo de Arco, Col. El Hujal
40880 Zihuatanejo, Guerrero
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-755)311-08 or 426-06

Mazatlan–Geri Nelson Gallardo
Address: Hotel Playa Mazatlan, Rodolfo T. Loaiza 202, Zona Dorada
82110 Mazatlan, Sinaloa
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-69)13-4444, ext. 285 or 16-5889

Oaxaca–Mark A. Leyes
Address: Alcala 201 Desp. 206
68000 Oaxaca, Oaxaca
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-951)4-3054

Puerto Vallarta–Laura Holmstrom
Address: Edificio Vallarta, Plaza, Zaragoza 160, Piso 2, Int. 18
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-322)2-0069

San Luis Potosi–Kathleen C. Reza
Address: Francisco de P. Mariel 103, Esq. con V. Carranza, Despacho 1
San Luis Potosi, San Luis Potosi
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-48)12-1528

San Miguel de Allende–Philip Maher
Address: Dr. Hernandez Macias 72
37700 San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
Tel. (from the U.S.): (011)(52-415)2-2357


American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico
A.C. Lucerna 78-4 06600 Mexico
D.F. Mexico
Tel: (525) 724-3800
Fax: (525) 703-3908
(Branch offices also in Guadalajara and Monterrey)

U.S. Department of Commerce
International Trade Administration
Office of Latin America and the Caribbean
14th and Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Tel: 202-482-0305; 202-USA-TRADE
Fax: 202-482-0464


The U.S. Department of State’s Consular Information Program provides Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department 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, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in the country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). To access CABB, dial the modem number: 301-946-4400 (it will accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-8-1(no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. The login is travel and the password is info. (Note: Lower case is required). The CABB also carries international security information from the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-4000.

Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648).

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a web site at give 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) is available from the 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).

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country (see “Principal U.S. Embassy Officials” listing in this publication). This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency.

Further Electronic Information

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 magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN’s World Wide Web site is at

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an annual 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. Contact the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.

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

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