University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Mexico, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.100, Doc. 7 rev. 1 (1998).





590. When Mexico ratified the American Convention on Human Rights, it undertook, pursuant to Article 26 of that instrument, to achieve progressively the full realization of the rights implicit in the economic, social and cultural standards set forth in the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS). In this regard, article 33 of OAS Charter notes that among the basic objectives of integral development agreed upon by the States parties to the Charter are equality of opportunity and the equitable distribution of wealth and income. In general, the countries of Latin America have stood out over the years for their inequitable distribution of wealth. Mexico is no exception to that rule. Indeed, a marked difference is found when the indigenous population is compared to the rest of the Mexican people.

591. The 1997 Report on Human Development, published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), places the Human Development Index (IDH)(161) in Mexico at 50. Moreover, at the Annual Conference on Economic Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, held towards the end of June 1998 in El Salvador, the World Bank confirmed that poverty and inequality in Mexico had reached "alarming proportions."(162) According to what was reported by the World Bank, poverty is worse in rural areas, where 47% of the population lives in that condition. The situation is considered alarming in indigenous communities, where 80% of the inhabitants survive in poverty. Around 28 million persons, or one-third of the population, live in poverty. Of these persons, eight million are living in extreme poverty, according to statements made by that international organization on the occasion indicated. All this reflects the tremendous imbalance among the different social sectors in Mexico, and points to a need for the State to establish policies and develop strategies to reduce these differences.

592. It is important to highlight the critical situation that Mexico experienced in 1995 as a result of the financial crisis of late 1994. The implementation of a drastic emergency stabilization program and successive measures to control the crisis, as well as the sharp drop in inflows of foreign capital and the uncertainty that prevailed for most of the year, led to an economic depression in 1995 that was unparalleled in modern Mexican history.

593. The emergency economic program implemented in Mexico to deal with the financial crisis led to a sharp contraction in internal demand, which was cushioned by the dynamism of the export sector, thereby preventing an even greater drop in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which declined by 7 per cent in 1995. The rate of unemployment, which had fallen to 2.7 per cent in 1990, rose to 6.3 per cent in 1995. The 1996 Human Development Report notes that the devaluation of the peso brought on the worst unemployment crisis of the past 60 years in Mexico. The number of new hirings was off sharply, employment diminished and unemployment rose to very high levels, which also led to a 13.2 per cent decline in real wages.(163)

594. Per capita gross domestic product, which was US$ 3,610 in 1993, fell to US$ 3,320 in 1995. Annual growth of per capita income, which averaged 3.6 per cent from 1965 to 1980, dropped to 0.5 per cent between 1980 and 1993, according to the 1996 Human Development Report.

595. The IACHR welcomes the progress that has been achieved in the field of education in Mexico, including the increase within the past few years in the number of persons enrolled in schools. Enrollment in primary schools increased from less than 10 million in 1970 to 15 million in 1993, and from 1.4 million in 1972 to 4 million in 1993 in secondary schools. There was also a rapid increase in higher education, where between 1959 and 1993, the number of persons attending universities climbed from 62,000 to 1.2 million.(164) Public spending on education also recorded a slight increase from 4.7 per cent of GDP in 1980 to 4.9 per cent in 1990. Even so, according to the 1996 report of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the number of children beginning work at an earlier age also rose. In 1970, 6.2 per cent of children aged 10 to 14 were employed. The number almost doubled to 12.3 per cent in 1990 and remained high in 1995, at 11.1 per cent.(165) This means that a large percentage of Mexican youths lack opportunities for progress and face a situation that breeds delinquency and violence, thereby worsening the human rights situation.

596. The health situation was also severely affected by the economic situation. In 1970, there were 1.4 hospital beds per 1,000 population, while in 1993, there were half as many (0.7 beds per 1,000 persons). This is one of the clear results of the reduction in public spending in this sector. In 1980, the health sector was allocated 0.4 per cent of GDP, a figure that declined to 0.3 per cent in 1990.(166)

597. According to the Human Development Report, 26 per cent of the Mexican population lives in rural areas, but their living conditions are markedly worse than those living in urban areas. Only 60 per cent have access to health centers, 62 per cent to drinking water, and 17 per cent to sanitation services. A large part of the urban population, however, also has serious problems with the provision of basic services. Approximately 20 per cent of the population lack access to health services, 9 per cent lack access to drinking water, and 30 per cent lack sanitation services.(167)

598. Even though these indicators are better than in past decades, they still give cause for concern and reveal how much remains to be done in these areas. According to the 1997 World Development Report published by the World Bank, during the period from 1991 to 1995, 14.9 per cent of the Mexican population got by on a budget of less than one United States dollar per day. The same report indicated that in 1990, 23 per cent of the rural population and 43 per cent of the urban population lived in conditions of poverty.(168)

599. The economic decisions made by the political leadership have consequences for all aspects of the life of the population. The process of economic liberalization begun in Mexico from the 1980s increased wage inequalities. In 1984, prior to the reform, the inequality coefficient was 0.43, but by 1992, it had risen to 0.48.(169) In this connection, the IACHR believes that the challenge of globalization is to capitalize on opportunities to expand employment, increase incomes and help those that are disadvantaged or displaced to acquire the skills needed to compete in a new global environment.

600. Mexico is a multi-ethnic country which is 60 per cent mestizo, 30 per cent indigenous, 9 per cent Caucasian and 1 per cent other ethnic groups.(170) Income inequality has led to major differences among the various ethnic groups. Social and economic differences generally cause conflicts as more and more people refuse to accept such great disparities in standards of living.

601. On April 16, 1996, Mexico ratified the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the "Protocol of San Salvador," In that Additional Protocol, the states reaffirm their intention:

... to consolidate in this hemisphere, within the framework of democratic institutions, a system of personal liberty and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of man, and considering the close relationship that exists between economic, social and cultural rights, and civil and political rights, in that the different categories of rights constitute an indivisible whole based on the recognition of the dignity of the human person, for which reason both require permanent protection and promotion if they are to be fully realized, and the violation of some rights in favor of the realization of others can never be justified.

602. The Mexican State told the IACHR that it recognized the importance of the country's backwardness and shortcomings and their economic, social, and cultural effects. In order to break the cycle of poverty, the State believes that it needs to act on a variety of fronts to help the lowest-income groups in its society. These activities should include efforts to bring down the high fertility rates, ensure adequate education and training, combat malnutrition, morbidity, and mortality caused by infectious and parasitic diseases, provide opportunities for productive employment, and improve living conditions with cultural, sports, and recreation services.

603. The National Development Plan established for 1995-2000 in Mexico states as follows: "There is a need to achieve social development that will foster and expand opportunities for the betterment of individuals and communities throughout the country, under the principles of equity and justice, with a focus on those groups, communities, and geographical areas that are the most disadvantaged from an economic and social standpoint." The following series of legislative and administrative measures adopted in Mexico from 1992 to 1996 should also be referred to in this connection:

- Amendment of Articles 3 and 130 of the Constitution, which establish a new relationship between churches and the State (January 1992);

- National Agreement to Modernize Basic Education (May 1992);

- New amendment of Article 3 of the Constitution, to establish the State's obligation to provide preschool, primary, and secondary education, and to promote all kinds of schools, including higher education, required for national development (March 1993);

- Approval of the General Law on Education, regulating teaching by official institutions and authorized or recognized individuals;()

- Reform of the health system, to expand the coverage of services, including provision for the complete decentralization of the Health Secretariat, so as to "strengthen state systems, reduce regional and state differences in health care, and foster greater participation by citizens in taking care of their own health;"

- Reform of the social security system, confirming the State's responsibility to help expand and improve the coverage of services, to guarantee decent pensions for workers, and to encourage increased domestic savings (July 1997).

604. The Commission will continue to monitor initiatives such as the ones summarized above, as they tend to reduce the huge social and economic differences existing in Mexico, and the indicators which will enable it to assess the impact of these initiatives on the country's development. Likewise, it will continue to seek information on new efforts undertaken by the State to give greater support to the neediest sectors, and to provide the basic services needed for that purpose.


605. In light of the situation reviewed above, the IACHR makes the following recommendations to the Mexican State:

606. To increase investments in health so as to guarantee everyone access to basic services.

607. To continue to invest in education, and to improve the conditions of that sector in general, with the aim of increasing school enrollment rates and developing literacy programs specifically for adults and indigenous populations.

608. To expand basic domestic infrastructure services (piped drinking water, wiring for electricity, sanitation services) for all housing in urban areas, and placing special emphasis on rural areas.




161. This report has included a human development index since 1990. It takes into account a variety of indicators, such as health, per capita income of the population, education, life expectancy, and the like, for the purpose of writing up an annual analysis of this subject in the various countries.

162. "La Jornada"newspaper, The PRI setback may favor the necessary changes, it is said , internet publication dated June 29, 1998.

163. ECLAC. Panorama Social de América Latina 1995. Santiago, Chile, 1995.

164. ECLAC, Balance preliminar de la economía de América Latina y el Caribe. 1995.

165. Statistical Yearbook of Latin America and the Caribbean, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), op.cit.

166. Statistical Yearbook for Latin America and the Caribbean, ECLAC, op. cit.

167. UNDP, Human Development Report.

168. World Development Report, World Bank, 1997.

169. According to the Human Development Report, the coefficient ranges from 0 to 1, with 0 for perfect equality and 1 for absolute inequality. Human Development Report, 1996.

170. Panorama Social de América Latina, ECLAC, 1995.


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