In 2000, The Carter Center observed the Mexican presidential election that marked the first change in the ruling party in 71 years. The Carter Center also has supported the nation's successful efforts to stop transmission of river blindness.
In July 2000, a Carter Center delegation witnessed a historic transition of power ending 71 years of rule by one party. Beginning in 1986, the Latin America and Caribbean Program (formerly known as the Americas Program) tracked Mexico's elections informally; it sent five official monitoring missions beginning in 1992. On each of the visits, the Center observed election preparations and implementation of electoral law. The Center made suggestions for improvements to electoral authorities striving to overcome past problems and transform Mexican politics.
Overall, observers found campaigning conditions consistent with preparation of a free election and afterward pronounced the elections as near perfect. A successful election was possible due to significant electoral reforms in the past decade, including the creation of the autonomous Federal Election Institute, state-of-the-art voter identification cards, and an electoral court to rule on disputes and certify results.
The Latin America and Caribbean Program also commissioned the report "Electoral Justice in Mexico: From Oxymoron to Legal Norm in Less Than a Decade" by Todd Eisenstadt, assistant professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire.
Although Latin America spends relatively less on defense than most other regions, government spending on expensive weapons systems often diverts scarce foreign exchange from more effective investments, including education. Further, when one nation spends more on defense, other nations are compelled to do the same, thus generating dangerous international tensions. Concerned about an arms race in Latin America, the Carter Center's Council of Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Americas urged governments in the region to pause before embarking on major arms purchases. Between April 1997 and March 1998, 28 current and 14 former heads of government signed a written pledge to accept a moratorium of two years on purchasing sophisticated weapons. Among these signatories was Mexico President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León.
The Latin America and Caribbean Program hosted a forum on the North American Free Trade Agreement, "NAFTA: Good or Bad for North America," in November 1993.
Current Status: Onchocerciasis eliminated
Verification Status: Elimination verified in July 2015
The Mexico Ministry of Health, in partnership with the Carter Center's Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas, Lions Clubs International Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Merck, and the Carlos Slim Foundation, has facilitated great success against river blindness (onchocerciasis).
The initiative stems from a 2001 recommendation by the Carter Center's International Task Force for Disease Eradication, which suggested that it was feasible to completely eliminate river blindness in the Americas with twice-yearly doses of Mectizan to at least 85 percent of those at risk.
Mexico originally had three endemic areas: Oaxaca, North Chiapas, and South Chiapas. Through more than 20 consecutive rounds of semiannual distribution of the drug Mectizan® (ivermectin, donated by Merck) and health education, onchocerciasis was wiped out from North Chiapas and Oaxaca by the late 2000s, and South Chiapas in 2012.
Mexico then entered the post-treatment phase of river blindness elimination; a three-year period of post-treatment surveillance (PTS) to ensure the disease has not reoccurred. The country successfully completed PTS, and in November 2014, the Mexican government initiated the official process to request WHO verification of elimination. A WHO International Verification Team visited the formerly endemic areas of Mexico June 1-10, 2015; the next month, official verification of elimination was confirmed. The WHO is the only organization that can officially recognize the elimination of a disease. In September 2015, Mexico publicly announced that it had become the world's third country to receive official verification of elimination of river blindness.
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Size: 1,964,375 square kilometers
Population below poverty line: 52 percent
Life expectancy: 76 years
Ethnic groups: Mestizo (Amerindian-Spanish), Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian, other
Religions: Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Jehovah's Witnesses, other evangelical churches, other, none, unspecified
Languages: Spanish only, Spanish and indigenous languages, indigenous only, unspecified
Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook 2016