the

Geopolitics of Mexico

located in the backyard of a superpower

Mexico is often overlooked in global

affairs as being beholden entirely to

the will of Washington that imprint is

unbecoming Mexico has long maintained an

independent foreign policy as a

steadfast metal power though that

process has not been without effort so

let's have a look at the geopolitical

profile of Mexico

I'm your host Shivan and welcome to Casa

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the description box below governing a

mountainous territory is never easy

not to mention one that is almost 2

million square kilometers beginning at

Tijuana the us-mexico border stretches

over 3100 kilometers to the Gulf of

Mexico while the western half of the

border is a straight line the eastern

half follows the trajectory of the Rio

Grande River the entirety of the western

border dissects the inhospitable deserts

of Baja California Sonora and Chihuahua

from the robust economies in the south

of the United States and yet despite the

harsh terrain the us-mexico border

remains the most traversed international

boundary in the world with approximately

350 million crossings annually south of

the border about 70% of Mexico is made

up of mountainous terrain to place

things into perspective Mexico is so

mountainous that

if the country were flattened it would

be the size of Asia appreciating this

fact of existence is key to

understanding Mexico the Sierra Madre

Oriental mountain range in the Northeast

and the Sierra Madre Occidental in the

Northwest dominate Mexico's geographic

landscape like two great shoulder blades

they run past the country's eastern and

western flanks in doing so the two

mountain systems detach Mexico's

coastlines from its interior to the west

the Sierra Madre Occidental gives way to

a thin strip of coastal desert and the

Gulf of California beyond which lies the

Baja California peninsula barren and

sparsely populated the peninsula is

nonetheless crucial to the defense of

Mexico's Pacific coastline in the east

meanwhile the gradual descent of the

Sierra Madre Oriental towards the Gulf

of Mexico turns the coastal regions into

a fertile plain that is well suited for

farming and is considered as the

agricultural base of Mexico however

unlike in the West

Mexico's eastern coastline has no

maritime boundary and is completely

exposed to the threats emanating from

the Gulf this maritime vulnerability has

been demonstrated repeatedly in history

nearly every foreign invasion of Mexico

from the Spanish in 1519 to the

Americans in 1914 has started at the

port city of Veracruz the fence of

Veracruz is therefore paramount to the

security of the Mexican government

between the twin Sierra Madre mountain

systems lies the arid and sparsely

populated Mexican plateau which rises to

meet the sierra nevada trans volcanic

belt in central and southern mexico at

the point of convergence this year a

modern mountain ranges and the sierra

nevada trans volcanic belt separate

north mexico from a place called the

valley of mexico which is the seat of

the government in Mexico City both

protected and confined by its

surroundings

Mexico City resembles a mountain

fortress busy

by unforgiving geography it acts as the

political heartland of Mexico and it is

the closest to a geographic nexus that

the Mexican geography has to offer

today around 21 million people live in

the metropolitan area of the capital and

Mexico City extends throughout most of

Mexico Valley so control over Mexico

City grants one decisive leverage over

the rest of the country further south

the mountains give way to the dense

jungles and swamps of the Isthmus of

Tehuantepec which splits to form the

Yucatan Peninsula in the east and the

Chiapas Highlands in the south with such

a divergent landscape whereby many

regions are geographically isolated it

is no surprise that most of Mexican

history is a tale of struggle between

the centralization of power in Mexico

City and the decentralization of power

to the peripheries that narrative exists

even today while the Mexican flag is

hoisted across the country each outlying

region pursues its own interests

separately from the capital take for

instance the Rio Grande basin in the

Northeast

it's bloated middle class has close

connections to the US banking

manufacturing and energy industries and

therefore enjoys a GDP per capita almost

twice that of the rest of Mexico a

similar situation can be observed in

Baja California where by border cities

such as Tijuana and Mexicali have

sophisticated backdoor private dealings

with the business elite in San Diego to

sum things up north Mexico which is home

to a fifth of the Mexican population has

more in common with the United States

than it does with the rest of Mexico as

a result the north has developed an

identity quite unlike the rest of the

country this fact is not lost on Mexico

City where lawmakers view the north at

risk of secessionism and foreign

intervention Mexico City is so

suspicious of Washington's close

relationship with north Mexico that at

the high

of the Second World War despite the

threat of Japanese power in the Pacific

Ocean Mexican officials refused to allow

the stationing of US troops in the Baja

California peninsula so maintaining

control over North Mexico is a task the

central government takes sincerely in

the Mexican plateau the story is

distinctly different as well destitute

mountainous and underdeveloped the

plateau serves as a buffer against the

United States however the same

conditions that restrict mobility have

also historically rendered it a cradle

of revolution and a crucible of crime

for Washington such instability is a

security risk because the illicit

activities and violence often spill over

into the United States in turn

Washington is forced to intervene in

Mexico's affairs to prevent Washington's

unilateral intervention Mexico City

embraces bilateral security cooperation

in the Mexican plateau as a means of

restoring Washington's confidence though

it is a breach of sovereignty there's

just no way around this being neighbors

with a superpower requires some

flexibility and this cooperation

provides lawmakers in both Washington

and Mexico City with necessary breathing

room so despite the turbulent

relationship the two nations have mutual

security concerns in the Mexican plateau

looking over its peripheral regions is

the Mexico City located some 2,200

meters above sea level

Mexico City is protected by its altitude

and mountainous surroundings and it has

played a crucial role since its founding

by the Aztecs

however the capital is lacking in

interconnectivity with its coastal

holdings this proved to be the downfall

of the Aztec empire half a millennium

has passed since the Spanish conquest

but despite the passing of time and the

advances in technology Mexico City is

still incapable of securing its eastern

coastline with the capital's power

projection be

confined to its interior a well-armed

naval power suggests the United States

poses a direct threat to Mexico's

integrity seen in this light the loss of

Texas Alta California and nuevo Mexico

in the mexican-american war of 1846 was

a natural result of Mexico's

vulnerabilities to policymakers in

Mexico City the objective is clear

whoever controls the eastern coastline

controls the capital and whoever

controls the capital controls the

highlands and thus ultimately the rest

of Mexico as long as Cuba and Florida

remain in the hands of foreign powers

Veracruz remains a knife pointed at the

heart of Mexico and existential threat

acknowledged even by the most idealistic

of defense analysts to the south theater

on topic Isthmus serves as Mexico's

untamable and uncover noble frontier

much of the terrain consists of

limestone and has limited access to

fresh water

as such the Chiapas Highlands in the

south and the Yucatan Peninsula in the

southeast offer little in the way of

agriculture both regions are thus costly

possessions for any government

nonetheless they have strategic value in

the Chiapas Highlands the delineated

borders have remained stable because

none of the regional States has the

capacity to shape the nature of the land

meanwhile the Yucatan Peninsula

protrudes into the Caribbean and forms a

geostrategic continuum with Cuba and

Florida so the peninsula is fundamental

to the defense of Mexico's eastern flank

and the exercise of power in the

Caribbean

without the Yucatan Mexico would have a

hard time defending itself against even

minor naval powers be that as it may the

area extending from the Chiapas to the

Yucatan is difficult to govern and the

authority of the central government is

seldom felt outside of major cities and

although the 21st century has brought

with it the opportunities for

alternative revenue streams such as

tourism

the South remains disproportionately

underdeveloped especially the Chiapas

with its GDP per capita of $7,200 not

surprisingly the South is a hotbed for

organized crime and low-level insurgency

now

Mexico's complicated geography could

have been overcome by rail and road

networks however despite ruling Mexico

for over 300 years

the Spanish authorities largely

neglected the infrastructure necessary

for Mexico to function independently so

when Mexico became an independent state

it started with a blank slate the most

rapid era of modernization occurred

during the reign of military general

Porfirio Diaz in the late 19th and early

20th centuries a period referred to as

the porfiriato the central government

made enormous strides towards economic

social and technological change but it

was eventually overturned by the

peasantry from the countryside as Mexico

entered the 20th century its isolated

geographic pockets erupted in civil

disobedience and the state fell into a

twenty-year political crisis known as

the era of the Mexican Revolution

emerging as the victor was the

Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI

for short which would rule Mexico from

1929 onwards through a system of soft

authoritarianism thanks to high oil

prices and a booming textile market the

PRI gained the confidence to align

itself with factions opposing Washington

such as the socialist governments in

Chile and Nicaragua at the height of its

independent foreign policy Mexico was

the only Latin American state to oppose

the economic embargo against Cuba it was

a daring display of policy making but

the PRI never went as far as openly

aligning with the Soviet Union much of

the success of the PRI is owed to the

favorable economic prospects but also to

its policy of incorporating threats

to the political process compromise is

usually a good sign in politics in

Mexico however it effectively resulted

in the government turning a blind eye to

the rise of the cartels which over time

allowed organized crime to be embedded

in Mexican society the second most

critical phase in Mexican history

occurred in the 1980s with the collapse

of oil prices as energy revenues

declined Mexico City reluctantly

embraced Washington and in doing so

opened its economy to foreign investment

and trade gradually Mexico lost its

opposition attitude and became a bridge

state between the United States and

Latin America the ratification of the

North American Free Trade Agreement and

the North American Security and

Prosperity Partnership were the final

steps in this political evolution but

the act had some unintended consequences

as part of its new security arrangement

with the United States

the Mexican government stumbled into

conflict with the original cartel

networks and the secessionist militias

at one point in 1994 a far-left

paramilitary group known as the

zapatistas briefly seized towns in the

Chiapas area and even marched on the

regional capital in the year 2000 the

PRI

relinquished power to the next

generation of law makers however the

task of maintaining unity remains the

number one priority for Mexico

the state must integrate its outlying

regions with the capital particularly

north Mexico this objective cannot be

pursued by force it must be accomplished

through a democratic mandate that said

some physical force is required when

dealing with the cartels here

Mexico City must collaborate with

Washington to break the clout of the

cartels for even greater efficiency in

the fight against organized crime

the Mexican government must provide an

incentive

structure for those who would otherwise

be drawn to illegitimate organizations

so some social programs are necessary in

the long run next the state must secure

its eastern coastline Veracruz remains

the Gateway into the heartland of Mexico

and that gate must be secured from

foreign influence the most

cost-effective way to accomplish this is

by creating an interdependent

relationship with the United States

whose Navy dominates the world's oceans

the Mexican government could for

instance bolster its diaspora lobbying

groups in Washington though this must be

done with care as not to provoke a

backlash should Mexico succeed in

unifying its territory under the

authority of the capital it can then

entertain the idea of foreign objectives

from Yucatan Mexico could project

influence across the Caribbean having a

firm understanding with Cuba would

strengthen the security of Mexico's

eastern coastline otherwise Mexican

policymakers would have to make do with

non-interventionism and assume that

other nations would respect that

principle yet perhaps Mexico's greatest

strength is its potential to turn into a

bridge between the United States and

Latin America Mexico would need far

greater soft power across Latin America

to accomplish this but it is an

objective worth pursuing

it would make Mexico indispensable to

the United States and that after all is

power for the appreciation of a

superpower is the greatest deterrence

there is I've been your host Shivan from

Caspian report if you enjoyed this video

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you for watching and so

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