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Mexican armed forces, Mexican politics, Vicente Fox, International Labor Organization, mayor of Mexico City

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Mexico’s political model theoretically has much in common with that of the United States. As with the U.S. government, Mexico’s government is divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. In Mexico, however, the executive branch dominates the other branches to such an extent that the country effectively has a political system that is controlled by its president. For most of the 20th century, only one political party, the government-controlled Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), played an influential role in politics or in the decision-making process. After it was founded in 1929, the government party monopolized most national political offices. The PRI did not lose a senate seat until 1988 or a gubernatorial race until 1989. It lost the presidency for the first time in 2000, when Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN) defeated the PRI candidate.

Given the dominance of the executive over the legislative and judicial branches, interest groups and lobbyists similar to those found in the United States have not developed in Mexico. Groups and individuals who wish to influence policy do so primarily through the executive branch, seeking contacts with agency heads and cabinet figures and, on occasion, with the president himself.

Local Government

The organization of local government in Mexico is somewhat similar to that of local government in the United States. Mexico has 31 states and the Federal District, where the national capital of Mexico City is located. Each state is administered by an elected governor, who serves a six-year term. The head of the Federal District government, commonly called the mayor of Mexico City, is also elected. Prior to 1997 the head of the Federal District was a member of the federal cabinet and was appointed by the president. Each state is divided into municipalities. Within each municipality, a city functions as an administrative center, much as a county seat does in the United States. This city collects and distributes local revenues for the municipality. Local governments exercise much less power than they do in the United States, however, because most revenues are collected by federal tax agencies, not by state or local governments.


The Mexican armed forces is organized into three major branches: the army, which had 144,000 troops in 2004; the navy, with 37,000 members; and the air force, with 11,770. Mexico’s military, measured in terms of the percentage of economic resources allocated per capita, is one of the smallest in the world. Military service, which typically involves some informal training and practice, is compulsory for males reaching age 18 but is widely ignored in practice. The military is subordinate to civil authority; however, the military has the potential to become involved in Mexican politics because it performs many internal police tasks. It has been responsible for pursuing the Zapatista rebels and for combating drug traffickers operating in Mexico.

International Organizations

Mexico belongs to the United Nations (UN) and participates in many of its agencies, such as the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Mexico is also a member of the Organization of American States (OAS), the most important regional diplomatic group; the Rio Group, a regional diplomatic organization that grew out of efforts by Latin American leaders to mediate conflicts in Central America during the 1980s; and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

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