Transportation and Telecommunications
Roads: Extensive system of roads linking all areas. More than 240,000 kilometers of roads, of which 85,000 paved (more than 3,100 kilometers expressway). Heaviest concentration in central Mexico. Many roads in poor condition as result of lack of maintenance and heavy truck traffic.
Railroads: More than 20,000 kilometers. Standard gauge, largely government-owned. System concentrated in north and central areas. Numerous connections to United States railroads; system largely used for freight and in need of modernization. Extensive, heavily used subway system in Mexico City; smaller subway in Guadalajara.
Ports: No good natural harbors. On east coast, Veracruz is principal port for cargo; Tampico, Coatzacoalcos, and Progreso handle petroleum. Guaymas, Mazatlán, and Manzanillo are principal ports on Pacific.
Air Transport: Adequate system of airlines and airports. More than 1,500 airstrips in 1994, of which 202 had permanent-surface runways. Principal international airport in Mexico City; other international airports in Monterrey, Guadalajara, Mérida, and Cancún. Aéromexico is main domestic airline.
Telecommunications: Highly developed system undergoing expansion and privatization. Long-distance telephone calls go via mix of microwave and domestic satellite links with 120 ground stations. International calls via five satellite ground stations and microwave links to United States. Demand still exceeds supply for new telephones in homes, but situation improving. More than 600 mediumwave amplitude modulation (AM) stations, privately owned. Twenty-two shortwave AM stations. Almost 300 television stations, most organized into two national networks.
Government and Politics
Government: Constitution of 1917 in force in 1997. Formally a federal republic, although federal government dominates governments of thirty-one states and Federal District. Central government power concentrated in president, who directs activities of numerous agencies and state-owned business enterprises. Bicameral legislature (128-member Senate and 500-member Chamber of Deputies) relatively weak. Federal judiciary headed by Supreme Court of Justice. State governments headed by elected governors; all states have unicameral legislatures; state courts subordinate to federal courts. Federal District governed by mayor (regente) indirectly elected by legislative body of the Federal District beginning in 1996; more than 2,000 local governments headed by elected municipal presidents and municipal councils.
Politics: Authoritarian system governed by president, who cannot be reelected to another six-year term. Major political organization Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional--PRI), which incorporates peasant groups, labor unions, and many middle-class organizations within its ranks. Many opposition parties have had limited electoral success; largest is the conservative Party of National Action (Partido de Acción Nacional--PAN). Direct elections at regular intervals; rule of no reelection applies to most offices. Election by majority vote, except for 200 seats in Chamber of Deputies reserved for opposition parties chosen by proportional representation. Extensive participation by interest groups and labor unions in government and PRI affairs.
Foreign Relations: Major attention devoted to United States. Trade and immigration along shared border subjects of continuing negotiations. Foreign policy traditionally based on international law; nonintervention the major principle. Widely active in hemispheric affairs, including good relations with Cuba.
International Agreements and Memberships: Party to Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty). Membership in international organizations includes Organization of American States and its specialized agencies, United Nations and its specialized agencies, Latin American Alliance for Economic Development, and Latin American Economic System. Joined NAFTA in 1993.
Data as of June 1996