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The Structure of Mexico's Government

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  • 0:00 Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
  • 0:54 Mexico
  • 2:26 Government Structure
  • 6:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

How does Mexico function as a nation? Explore the structure of Mexico's government and discover the branches and powers that keep the nation running. Then test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos

Let's talk governments. Governments are important, and today we are going to talk about one North American government that has an important impact on all of our lives. You can probably guess who I'm talking about. That's right, the government of the United States of. . . Mexico. As one of only two nations that border us, one of our most significant trade partners and our greatest partner in both immigration and emigration, the government of Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos plays an important role in American lives. Of course, most of us just call it Mexico, and so do most people who live there, but this nation is a federation of states, ruled by a single central government, just like us. So let's get to know the government of Mexico - it's what good neighbors do.

Mexico

Mexico, much like the USA, is composed of a series of states that are all ruled under the leadership of a central government. In fact, it has 31 states, as well as a separate Federal District. What we know as Mexico City, or the Ciudad de México, is officially the Distrito Federal or simply 'DF'. This is where the government is physically located. That's just like how Washington, D.C., is a federal district.

Each of those 31 states has its own rights, including the ability to elect state officials, such as governors, and is essentially a miniature version of the nation, with its own Supreme Court, laws and state Congress. As for the federal government, based in the Distrito Federal, Mexico officially functions as a Federal presidential representative democratic republic, which is a fancy way of saying that the government is made of representatives elected by the people. If you're interested in more details, all of this can be found in Mexico's Constitution, written in 1917. This is not Mexico's first constitution, or even its second, but its third. This current constitution was written towards the end of the Mexican Revolution, and so many people still consider Mexico to be run by a revolutionary government. That's up for debate, but the goals of the revolution, things like improved rights and liberties for the people, were extremely impactful on the new constitution.

Government Structure

The government of Mexico, like most governments, is set up to protect the rights of the people. So they use this system called the division of powers, in which no single person can control absolutely everything. Sound familiar? The revolutionary ideas that formed the basis of our own government were very influential on Mexican intellectuals.

So the Mexican government is also divided into three branches. The first of these is the legislative branch. In Mexico, legislative power falls to the Congress, officially the Congreso General de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, which like ours is bicameral, meaning it has two houses within it. These houses are the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, or the Senado de la República and the Cámara de Diputados, and they can do things like pass laws, create taxes, declare war, approve treaties and deal with foreign nations. There are 500 representatives in the Chamber of Deputies, elected every three years, and 128 representatives in the Senate, who each serve six years. They can't serve two terms in a row, although they can re-run for election later on.

The next branch of the Mexican government is the judicial, headed by the Supreme Court, or the Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación. Mexico's Supreme Court has 11 judges, who are appointed by the president but then must be approved by Congress. These judges interpret the law and the Constitution, and serve for a term of 15 years, which is a long time. But, judges can never run for reelection. You may notice that Mexico, even more than many other nations, is slightly paranoid about letting any single person accumulate too much power in government. Everything has to be approved by all three branches, and re-elections are not allowed.

Remember that the current constitution was written after a bloody revolution against a dictator who had been in power for almost 40 years. And before him, was an entire century of military generals who continuously overthrew the government to install themselves as president. At one point, around the 1830s, the average length of a presidential term was only seven months before another general took over. So Mexico has good reason to be cautious.

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