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World

Five things to know about Mexico

  • Here are five things to know about the world's most populous Spanish-speaking country, home to 126 million people.
Published June 3, 2021

MEXICO CITY: Mexico, which holds legislative and local elections on Sunday, is Latin America's second-biggest economy but it has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and years of drug-related violence.

Here are five things to know about the world's most populous Spanish-speaking country, home to 126 million people.

Migrant gateway

Bordered to the south by Guatemala and Belize, Mexico is the main entry point to the United States for undocumented migrants from Central America.

Former US president Donald Trump's vow to build a wall along the 3,200-kilometer (2,000-mile) US-Mexico border sparked diplomatic tensions, although he maintained friendly relations with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Trump's successor Joe Biden suspended construction of the barrier and tasked Vice President Kamala Harris with dealing with the roots of the migration problem.

Biden promised a more humane approach, but he has come under criticism from Republicans and his own supporters alike after a surge in arrivals at the southern border.

Battered by Covid

Mexico's official coronavirus death toll of more than a quarter of a million is the fourth highest in the world, and the government acknowledges that the real figure is probably much higher.

Battered by the crisis, the Mexican economy contracted by 8.5 percent in 2020 in the worst slump since the Great Depression some nine decades ago, official figures showed.

The country is one of the few major tourist destinations not to have restricted arrivals during the pandemic.

As a result, it was the third-most visited country in the world in 2020, although tourist numbers dropped 45 percent.

More than $40 billion in remittances sent home last year by Mexicans abroad provided a lifeline for many in a country where more than half the population lives in poverty.

Violence, corruption

Dozens of Mexican politicians have been murdered in the months leading up to the elections, in bloodshed linked to corruption and the multibillion-dollar narcotics trade.

The killings are part of a wave of violence that has left more than 300,000 dead since the government deployed the army to fight drug trafficking in 2006.

Around 85,000 people have been registered as missing over the same period.

The country is ranked 124th out of 179 on Transparency International's world corruption index.

It is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, with more than 100 killed since 2000, including AFP stringer Javier Valdez who was gunned down in 2017.

Earthquake prone

Bordered by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, mountainous Mexico is one of the most seismically active places in the world, sitting atop five tectonic plates including three major ones.

On September 19, 1985 a huge 8.1 magnitude quake in Mexico City killed more than 10,000 people.

On the anniversary of that earthquake in 2017, a 7.1 quake left 370 people dead, mainly in the capital city.

Cultural powerhouse

Mexico's world-class archaeological sites include the pre-Hispanic cities of Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan.

Its world-renowned artists include Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera. The poet and writer Octavio Paz won the 1990 Nobel literature prize.

Mexican actors including Salma Hayek, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna have enjoyed major Hollywood success.

Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu -- known as the "three amigos" -- have all won the best director Oscar.

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