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Mexico Social Conditions Essay, Research Paper


Social problems include a rapidly increasing population, inequitable income distribution, regional imbalances, and a discontented middle class. In addition, rampant drug trafficking has destabilized large parts of society and corrupted officials. The benefits of the substantial economic progress since the mid-1980s have been enjoyed mainly by those already wealthy, and even this progress was interrupted by the 1994 1995 financial crisis.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the population grew by more than 3.5% annually;

the population doubled between 1967 and 1996. Despite an aggressive government birth-control program that began in the mid-1970s, the annual growth rate still stands at about 2.2%, a level expected to continue through 2000, severely hampering economic development. Children younger than 15 constitute 36% of the population. Nearly 1 million new workers enter the market each year and only a small percentage find decent jobs.

High birth rates are sustained by deeply ingrained social resistance to birth control. Aging parents rely on the help of children because they can count on almost no social

welfare protection or unemployment compensation.

Living standards have also been lowered by the economic reform policies since 1982. An estimated 100,000 jobs were lost between 1991 and 1994 as a wave of bankruptcies hit smaller companies that could not compete with foreign businesses.

Privatization has cut thousands of jobs. The real incomes of most people have fallen sharply and the number of landless peasants has risen. The high birth rate and rural migration to urban areas have made many cities virtually unmanageable. Economic recovery in 1996 and 1997 largely bypassed the poor; the gap between rich and poor is enormous, and has increased since the 1994 1995 devaluations. In mid-1997, Zedillo acknowledged that the 40% of the population who were poor were not benefiting from recent economic gains, and announced an anti-poverty program dubbed El Progresa. However, the $155 million allocated to the program makes it exceedingly modest, given the scope of the problem.

The 1994 1995 financial crisis increased hardships. Hundreds of thousands of workers have been laid off. The emerging middle class has been especially hurt. Many

families have seen their savings cut in half, while mortgage costs and credit card interest charges soar. An uprising in Chiapas that began in January 1994 has underscored growing demands for greater democratization and a more equitable distribution of wealth.

It is not surprising that the south was the site of both the Chiapas rebellion and a

Guerrilla uprising in August 1996 by the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR). The

implementation of Nafta and the 1994 1995 Mexican peso crisis and its aftermath have heightened the divisions between the modern, export-oriented sectors of the economy operating primarily in the north and the deeply depressed domestic sectors. Southern states such as Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Guerrerro have lagged as the rest of the country races to integrate with the US. This regional gap is growing, as resources become increasingly concentrated in the dollar economy, partly as a result of Nafta. Life expectancy is 20 years higher in northern Mexico than in the south, while per capita consumption and average wages are as much as five times higher. The shift of economic power to the north has given an extra impetus to the massive northward migration of the population. The migration brings both hope and remittances to the south, where extreme poverty is inevitable as long as the limited arable land has to feed so many. At the same time, it increases northerners resentment of their higher tax burden; they object to subsidizing Mexico City and the poor southern states.

The poverty of Mexico’s Indians, who constitute 29% of the population, also poses a

serious threat to social peace. Nearly 10% of the people speak an Indian language. They suffer from high rates of disease, infant mortality, illiteracy, and poverty. The Zapatista uprising in Chiapas was fueled in part by demands for Indian rights.

Corruption has long threatened economic development and governmental authority.

A surge in drug trafficking has occurred since mid-1992, producing a wave of violent crime and corruption. Rumors of links between PRI officials and drug traffickers intensified in 1994 after the assassination of the PRI’s presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, in March and the killing of a second PRI leader in September. In 1996, Salinas’ brother was accused of close ties to drug-traffickers, reinforcing the widespread belief that drug dealers enjoy protection at the highest levels of government. Suspicions were heightened by the February 1997 arrest of Guti rrez.

The vast supply of dollars available to drug traffickers for protection money increases the difficulty of rooting out drug-related corruption. US officials have concluded that drug corruption is so entrenched in law enforcement agencies that meaningful cooperation is impossible. They have even strained relations between the two countries by conducting undercover operations in Mexico without informing Mexican officials. Much drug traffic has migrated from Colombia to Mexico because of the crackdown on Caribbean smuggling routes. A side effect of corruption is the alarming rise in vigilante justice provoked by the widespread distrust of the legal system.

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