Country of the World Mexico

About the country Mexico, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.

NATIONS AND THEIR RULERS

MEXICO

NITTY-GRITTY

Lay of the Land: Bridging the gap between North and Central America, Mexico has a wide range of climate and topography. Two mountain ranges and the high plateau between them dominate central Mexico. The western range, with peaks up to 10,000 ft., is known as the Sierra Madre Occidental; the Sierra Madre Oriental, on the east, is much lower. A range of ancient and active volcanoes crosses Mexico east to west near Mexico City; some of these reach 18,000 ft. in elevation. There are wide coastal plateaus, especially on the Gulf of Mexico. The Yucatan Peninsula is an interesting feature; a wide, flat thumb of low-lying jungle thrusting into the Gulf of Mexico, it is the site of ancient Mayan cities, which were abandoned centuries ago and only recently rediscovered.

Distinctions in Mexico's climate are often made vertically, by elevation. Tierra caliente ("hot country") is land below 3,000 ft., including coastal plains and riverbeds. Tierra templada ("cool country") is above 6,000 ft. and includes upper mountain slopes and high plateaus.

Plant and animal life ranges from the cacti and lizards of the northern deserts to the palms, creepers, and fabled quetzal bird of the tropical regions.

Size: 761,604 sq. mi. (1,972,547 sq. km.).

Population: 66.6 million. Half are under 15 years of age.

Who Rules: Mexico is a federal republic with a president and legislature. The presidency is a powerful, centralized office, with a nonrenewable six-year term. The current president is Jose Lopez Portillo of the dominant PRI (Party of Revolutionary Institutions), author, lawyer, teacher, and close buddy of ex-President Luis Echeverria Alvarez. The election of Lopez Portillo in 1976 was a foregone conclusion, for with Mexico's one-party system, the presidency is always passed from politician to politician within the PRI.

Who REALLY Rules: "When the U.S. gets a cold, Mexico catches pneumonia"-so the Mexicans describe their relationship with their northern neighbor. Not only has the U.S. relieved Mexico over the years of half is national territory, but U.S. banking and corporate interests practically control Mexican politics. Mexico has a $30 billion foreign debt, most of it to U.S. public or private institutions. Recently, the U.S., via the International Monetary Fund, pressured Mexico to devalue the peso and institute an austerity program that included wage cuts, reduced social services, and a halt to the nationalization program begun under the Echeverria administration. The results are increased rural poverty and a corresponding increase in illegal immigration to the U.S.-another sore point between the countries. Estimates of undocumented aliens now in the U.S. rang from 4 to 12 million.

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