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article imageMexico at a glance

By AFP     Jun 29, 2018 in Travel

Mexico, which elects a new president on Sunday, is Latin America's second biggest economy and wracked by a bloody drug war and tensions with Washington since Donald Trump came to power.

Here are some key facts about the world's most populous Spanish-speaking country, with 127.5 million inhabitants:

- Tensions with Trump -

During his campaign for the presidency, Trump in 2015 said some Mexican immigrants were criminals and rapists.

Since his election he has doggedly pursued a pledge to build a wall along the 3,200-kilometre (1,988-mile) border between the two countries, saying it would halt illegal migration and drug trafficking and angering Mexico.

Trump has also imposed a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which has bound the United States to Mexico and Canada since 1994.

Mexico, Latin America's biggest economy after Brazil, is highly dependent on bilateral trade with the United States, which represents more than $500 billion a year.

Some 80 percent of Mexico's exports go to its northern neighbor and many of those goods, notably cars, are made with parts from the United States.

Mexican growth slowed to two percent in 2017, dragged back by uncertainty over NAFTA and the upcoming election.

The country has also suffered from falling oil production: revenues from its state oil company Pemex, which no longer enjoys a monopoly, account for 16 percent of Mexico's budget.

More than two-fifths of the population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank in 2016.

- Bloody drugs wars -

Mexico has been racked by violence linked to a multibillion-dollar illegal narcotics trade since the government deployed the army to fight drug trafficking in 2006.

The unofficial war has unleashed a wave of killing that left 25,339 dead last year, the highest toll on record.

The current electoral campaign has been marked by a record number of attacks and assassinations of local politicians.

The country also suffers from endemic corruption, which leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, ahead in the polls, has vowed to take on.

It is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, with more than 100 assassinated since 2000. These include AFP stringer Javier Valdez, one of the most prominent chroniclers of the drug war, who was gunned down in 2017.

- Acapulco: murder capital -

One casualty of the lawlessness is the Pacific beach resort of Acapulco, once a glamorous getaway for Hollywood celebrities but now considered one of Mexico's murder capitals and a battleground for rival cartels.

Despite the violence, tourism remains Mexico's third largest currency earner. The country welcomed a record 39.3 million tourists in 2017.

Among its widely visited sites are the pre-Hispanic cities of Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan. Excavations of Aztec ruins often lead to archeological discoveries.

Mexico also gave birth to the artists Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera as well as the writer Octavio Paz, who won the 1990 Nobel literature prize.

- Earthquake prone -

A mountainous country bordered by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, 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 rocked the country, leaving 369 people dead.

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