In Mexico, south of the United States on the
North American continent, there are many magnificent
remnants of the cultures that met the Spanish colonizers
in the 16th century. The heritage of the indigenous
peoples is nurtured and many speak their own languages
alongside the Spanish. Mexico is considered a
middle-income country, but the social divisions are
huge. Since 2006, violence between drugs and between
them and the police and military has affected around
100,000 people's lives.
Brief profiles of Mexico, including geography, history, politics, economics as well as common acronyms about this country.
Mexico is the southernmost part of the North
American continent and is just over four times the size
of Sweden. From the approximately 300-mile border to the
United States in the north, the country gradually
narrows to the southeast. At the narrowest point, the
Tehuantepec Nose, it is only 20 miles between the
Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.
The majority of Mexico is occupied by a high plateau,
La Mesa. The plateau is framed to the east, west and
south by the Sierra Madre Oriental, Sierra Madre
Occidental and Sierra Madre del Sur mountain ranges. The
northern part of the plateau is around 1,000 meters
above sea level, while the southern parts, Mesa Central,
are located at just over 2,000 meters altitude. Here is
the country's population and economic center, the Mexico
Valley, with the capital Mexico City, which is one of
the world's largest metropolises.
Through the high plateau runs a geologically unstable
belt, where earthquakes are common. To the east and
south of the capital lies a volcanic chain with the
country's highest mountain peaks: Pico de Orizaba,
Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl.
The mountain ranges south of the high plateau project
into the low-lying Tehuantepec Nose, which is the
geological dividing line between North and Central
America. The nose has been covered by tropical forest,
but it has mostly been cut down. There are large oil
deposits in the area. To the east of the nose are the
Chiapas Highlands and the Yucatán Peninsula, which
together form the border with Guatemala and Belize.
Mexico has many habitats, with huge deserts, tropical
rainforests, mangrove swamps and high mountain areas. It
is considered one of the world's richest countries, with
many species of animals and plants that are not found
The country's only major rivers are the border rivers
against the United States and Guatemala, Río Bravo / Río
Grande and Río Usumacinta.
Mexico is at about the same latitude as the Sahara
desert. Large parts of the northern high plateau and the
surrounding mountains also have the character of the
peninsula. However, the large differences in altitude
and the position between two oceans create a very varied
climate, where the height above the sea means more than
The country is usually divided into three climate
zones. The hot region (tierra caliente) of up
to 1000 meters above sea level has an average
temperature over 22 degrees. The temperate region (tierra
templada) between 1,000 and 2,000 meters has an
average temperature of 15–22 degrees. In the cold region
(tierra fría) over 2,000 meters above sea
level, the average temperature is below 15 degrees. The
rainfall is unevenly distributed with drought in the
north and tropical humidity in the south. The Atlantic
coast receives more rain than the Pacific coast.
FACTS - GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
1 964 375 km2 (2018)
Swedish –7 to –9 hours
Adjacent country (s)
USA, Belize, Guatemala
Capital with number of inhabitants
Mexico City about 21 million (with suburbs, estimated
Other major cities
Guadalajara 1.6 million, Puebla 1.5 million, Ciudad
Juárez 1.3 million, Tijuana 1.3 million (census 2010)
Pico de Orizaba (5,636 m asl)
Río Brava / Río Grande, Río Usumacinta
Average Precipitation / year
Mexico City 590 mm
Average / day
Mexico City 13 °C (January), 18 °C (May)
President's popularity at the bottom
The protests following the disappearance of teacher students in September
continue. Peña Nieto visits Guerrero for the first time since the students
disappeared. In a speech in the tourist resort of Acapulco, the president
presents a plan for economic recovery in the state. His popularity figures have
dropped to 39 percent, according to a survey published by Reforma magazine.
New police forces will be established
As a result of the students' disappearance at the end of September, Peña
Nieto decides on a comprehensive reorganization of police power. Around 1,800
municipal police forces are to be scrapped and replaced by forces at the state
level. In addition, the federal government is entitled to dissolve municipal
governments if they are considered to have been infiltrated by criminal groups.
Violent protests following student kidnapping
About a month after the abduction of the 43 students, the mayor of Iguala is
arrested and his wife arrested in Mexico City; they had been wanted for some
time. They are later charged with serious crimes. The state prosecutor states
that the students must have been murdered by a criminal gang on order by the
police, and the bodies burned at a dump. The murders must have happened to
prevent the students from interfering with the mayor's speech. But many Mexicans
misrepresent the authorities' duties. Tens of thousands participate in protests
that occasionally turn violent. The demonstrations are led by relatives of the
No referendum on energy reform
The Supreme Court decides that a request for a referendum on the energy issue
contravenes the Constitution. The left parties PRD and Morena have collected 4.7
million signatures demanding a referendum on the government's decision to
partially privatize the oil industry.
Missing students are growing scandal
Soon it is clear that 43 young men have disappeared without a trace after the
police intervention on September 26. Federal forces take control of Iguala.
Protests are growing around the country and riots are erupting in their
quarters. Protesters claim that government officials in the area are in contact
with criminal gangs, and that the police have handed the students over to the
drug-dealing Guerreros unidos. Guerrero's governor is forced to step down.
Mass skiing of teacher students
In conjunction with a protest action, a group of teacher students in the city
of Iguala in Guerrero disappears, in what will become the prelude to a prolonged
scandal with the highest level of repercussions. The students come from a school
in Ayotzinapa that is known for leftist activism. They are shot by police, and
possibly unknown perpetrators, in connection with a demonstration directed at
the mayor of Iguala and his wife who are accused of irregularities and abuses.
Six students die and 17 are injured. The others, according to eyewitnesses, are
taken away in police cars.
Congressman found murdered
A member of the Federal Congress, Gabriel Gómez Michel, is found murdered a
few days after he was abducted by unknown perpetrators in the city of
Guadalajara. His party, PRI, suspects that a criminal gang is behind the murder
of Gómez and his driver who are also found dead.
New police force is presented
In the end, the new police force that was promised (see December 2012)
will be 5,000 strong, a decent diet from the 40,000 initially planned. The
police force is one of the last elements of the president's comprehensive
package, where energy, telecommunications, electoral laws, and financial markets
have already been reformed.
New rules for the telecom industry
Legislative changes that change the conditions of the telecom industry are
being passed by Congress and will force Carlos Slim - one of the world's richest
men - to break up his telecom company América Móvil, the largest in Latin
America. The new rules also affect Televisa, the largest Spanish-language TV
channel in the Spanish-speaking world.
Security forces are accused of massacres
Twenty-two people die in what is first reported to be a firefight between
gang members and security forces in Tlatlaya, Mexico, in one of the bloodiest
clashes since President Peña Nieto took office. A soldier is injured. Later, it
turns out that over half of the victims were civilians who had surrendered and
subsequently shot dead in clean executions. Several soldiers are charged but
released by a military court. According to recent information, three women who
were released in connection with the operation must also have been subjected to
torture by police officers who tried to make them testify falsely. The details
of the incident remain unclear and, according to critics, the darkening of the
efforts against the crime is characteristic of the government.
Mass grave found in Veracruz
Over 30 bodies are found in the state. It is unclear who the victims are and
how they died, but extensive gang fighting has occurred in the area. The number
of deaths in drug-related violence is now estimated at 85,000 since 2007.
Several in the Zeta cartel are killed
One of the Zeta cartel's founders, Galindo Mellado Cruz, is shot dead by
security forces in Tamaulipas. Four other cartel members were also killed, as
was a soldier. The Zeta cartel is now said to control more territory than any
other criminal group in the country and it is known for extreme brutality. It is
the war between the Zeta and the Golfo cartel that makes Tamaulipas severely
Ultimatum to self-defense forces in Michoacán
Members of the self-defense forces in Michoacán (see January 2014)
have been given two alternatives: joining a new police force in the countryside
by May 10, or handing over their weapons. Over 3,000 are said to have joined the
new force. It is unclear how many who have either joined or handed in weapons
when the deadline expires. Those who refuse risk being arrested.
Military is put into drug war
Soldiers are sent to the state of Tamaulipas in the north, where nearly 80
people were killed in a month in fighting between various drug bodies. Tamulipas
borders Texas and is characterized by drug trafficking across the border. The
state security chief has just been murdered.
Leading drug kings are killed
Police report they shot to death La Familia cartel founder, Nazario Moreno,
who was also a front figure for its successor Temple Knights order. This
represents another important success in the fight against drug cartels in just a
few weeks. Shortly thereafter, another success comes when it is confirmed that
the supposed second-rider in the Temple Knights Order, Enrique Plancarte, was
shot dead during an operation in the state of Querétaro. Thus, only one remains
in the cartel's leadership trophy: Servando "La Tuta" Gómez.
The leader of the Sinaloa cartel is arrested
One of the world's most sought after persons, Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín
Guzmán - also known as "El Chapo" - is arrested at a hotel in Sinaloa. That
means a feather in the hat for Peña Nieto; The Sinaloa cartel accounts for much
of the drug smuggling to the United States, which had promised up to $ 5 million
for information that led to an arrest. Guzmán was arrested in 1993 but escaped
from a high-security prison in 2001. A man suspected to have been Guzmán's
security chief after the escape, Johathan Salas, was arrested in February 2013.
Mass grave found in Michoacán
Police find a mass grave with remains after at least 20 people. In a nearby
community, the inhabitants find four severed heads. Drug cartels are suspected
to be behind the murders.
Cartel members are arrested
Security forces seize 38 members of the Temple Knights Order cartel,
including a senior leader, in an effort to restore order in Michoacán. But the
self-defense groups say they are not satisfied until all the cartel's top
figures are arrested. One week later, one of the top leaders in the Order of the
Knights Templar, Dionico Loya Plancarte, is arrested. The authorities will then
agree with the self-defense groups that the latter will join a new form of
official defense force for the countryside. President Peña Nieta also promises
more money to Michoacán to address the underlying causes of the spiral of
violence. The money will go to schools, roads, hospitals and the like.
Self-defense groups take control of communities in Michoacán
Civilian militia occupies several communities in the state and drives out Los
Caballeros Templarios (Temple Knights Order), a sect-like drug cartel. They also
take over from the local police. The so-called self-defense groups consist of
civilians who believe that the police and military do not protect them against
the violence of the drug gangs (see also November 2013). When
the military tries to disarm the self-defense groups, confrontations arise in
their places. The state authorities are turning to the federal authorities for
help. The situation in Michoacán has become the most serious security threat in