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The Government of Mexico
The official name of Mexico is the Mexican United States (or Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos). Mexico is divided into 31 states and a Federal District, located in Mexico City (similar to Washington D.C. in the United States). Mexico functions under the 1917 Constitution, which divides the government into executive, legislative, and judicial branches. As per the constitution, Mexico is defined as a Federal Republic.
The Executive branch is headed by the President, who is elected for a six year term. The president also selects a cabinet, which much be approved by the senate. At the time of the writing of this book, the president of Mexico was Vicente Fox, who was elected in the year 2000. Elections for a new president will take place in July of 2006. The president of Mexico serves as the chief of state and the leader of the government. There is no vice-president in Mexico. In the case that the president dies or is removed from office, the National Congress will select a new president. The president cannot be elected for a second term.
The Legislative, or law-making branch of the Mexican government, consists of the Congreso de la Union (National Congress) which is made up of the Cámara de Senadores (Senate) and the Cámara de Diputados (Chamber of Deputies). The Senate has 128 seats, most of which are elected by a popular vote every six years. The rest are made up of each political party’s popular vote.
The Chamber of Deputies has 500 seats. 300 deputies are elected by popular vote, and the rest are made up of appointed members based on the different political parties’ popular votes. This system allows smaller political parties some representation in the Legislative branch. The members of the Mexican government’s legislative branch serve 3 year terms.
The Judicial branch is made up of state courts and the Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación (National Supreme Court). The president appoints the judges, but the National Senate must approve before the judges begin their service. The legal system is similar to that of the United States, with a civil law system being the primary means of dealing with legal matters. The constitution states that the process of trial and sentencing should be completed within a year of the initial arrest if the crime is minor. In criminal cases, there is no jury. Defendants have access to a lawyer, and there are public lawyers available.
Mexico was actually ruled by a single party, the PRI (Revolutionary Institutional Party) until the election of President Vicente Fox, from the right-leaning PAN (National Action Party). The corruption and stranglehold that the PRI held for so many years was dissolved in part by electoral reforms inacted in1980 that allowed other political parties wider access to national politics.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Mexican government enacted several electoral reforms, which have subsequently given other, minor parties more influence in the political field. In 1995, additional constitutional amendments dealing with issues such as campaign fairness and fraud allowed more changes in the political system. With these changes, public financing takes precedent over private campaign contributions, and makes for more thorough audits of each political parties.
The election of Vicente Fox (full name Vicente Fox Quesada) marked a turning point in Mexican political history. Fox is the first Mexican president elected for a party other than the PRI since president Francisco Madero was elected in 1910. Fox is from the PAN or the National Action Party. In the 1990s, Fox served as the govenor of the state of Guanajuato, one of Mexico’s most important agricultural areas. He also had worked his way up the corporate ladder to become the director of the Coca-Cola company in Mexico, and thus had quite a bit of influence within political spheres in the country.
Although he promisted sweeping changes in Mexico, President Fox actually has had very little political control during his term, due to the fact that other parties where dominant in Congress and were set against him. His various bold promises, such as stimulating massive economic growth, have been left uncompleted, even nearing the end of his term.
President Fox also claimed that he would solve the issue of the New Zapatista movement in Chiapas in fifteen minutes. The New Zapatista movement, which demands indigenous rights, is still an issue in Mexico. This turned out to be an embarrasing movement for Fox, as the situation with the Zapatistas remains unresolved, almost six years later. Read more about the New Zapatista moevement in the history chapter.
Although his administration has been riddled by controversy and failure, Fox has made a few notable contributions to Mexico. He claims huge advances in education, based mostly on a new system of “virtual encyclopedias” which he managed to distribute to both urban and rural areas throughout the country. This system includes computers, projectors, and databases of information, photos, videos, etc. which Fox claims “modernizes” education in Mexico. Fox has also streamlined the process for getting home loans, making it easier for many Mexicans to own their own homes.
The 2006 presidential race promises to be interesting, if not a little ugly. Manuel Lopez Obrador, a popular political figure and presidental candidate for the PRD, was effectively empeached from his position as mayor of Mexico City (Jefe de Gobierno del Distrito Federal) for a minor scandal involving a land dispute. Supporters of Lopez Obrador argued in his favor, saying that “he’s being attacked, not because he is not a dangerous man, but because he is a dangerous candidate.” Although removed from his powers as mayor of Mexico City, Lopez Obrador still remains a candidate for the 2006-2012 presidency.
The following is a list of the most important political parties that have candidates for the 2006 elections in Mexico:
Nueva Alianza: The New Alliance.
PAN (Partido Acción Nacional). The National Action Party. A conservative party dominated by highly religious members.
PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional). The Institutional Revolutionary Party. The main ruling party in Mexico.
PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática). The Party of the Democratic Revolution. A left-leaning party. Manuel Lopez Obrador, once the mayor of Mexico City, is the presidental candidate for this party for 2006.
PT (Partido del Trabajo). The Labor Party.
PVEM (Partido Verde Ecologista de México). The Green Ecological Party of Mexico.
Convergencia (Convergencia por la Democracia). Convergence for Democracy.
Alternativa (Alternativa Socialdemócrata y Campesina). Social Democratic and Peasant Alternative.
Browse through our Mexican Information Pages for:
Resources to learn more about Mexico:
Recipes from an Aztec Garden
A Collection of Classic and Traditional Recipes from Mexico!
Festival of Mexico Folk Arts
Mexican folk art information, Mexican toys and games including loteria cards, Mexican culture and folk art buying tips, Folk art from
Chiapas, Oaxaca, Huichol folk art, and more!
Mexican Culture for Kids
A resource for teachers, students, and anyone interested in Mexico.
Flor y Canto
This website is an exploration of Mexican culture written by a Mexican woman and her American husband.
Ecotourism and responsible travel in Mexico and around the world.
Madam Mayo's Blog
M. Mayo is a writer, poet, and translator. Her blog has lots of great information about Mexican culture and travel.