Mexico

Partly Free
60
100
PR Political Rights 27 40
CL Civil Liberties 33 60
Last Year's Score & Status
61 100 Partly Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

Mexico has been an electoral democracy since 2000, and alternation in power between parties is routine at both the federal and state levels. However, the country suffers from severe rule of law deficits that limit full citizen enjoyment of political rights and civil liberties. Violence perpetrated by organized criminals, corruption among government officials, human rights abuses by both state and nonstate actors, and rampant impunity are among the most visible of Mexico’s many governance challenges.

header2 Key Developments in 2021

  • With nearly 300,000 deaths and 4 million cases, people in Mexico remained severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the year, although nearly 63 percent of the population had received at least one vaccine dose by year’s end.
  • In midterm elections in June, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) and its coalition allies maintained a majority in the lower house of Mexico’s Congress, but lost the supermajority they had held since 2018. MORENA made gains at the state level, with candidates winning 11 of 15 gubernatorial races.
  • President López Obrador continued to verbally attack his critics and perceived opponents, including media outlets, civil society organizations, and autonomous state institutions, routinely using inflammatory language.
  • Mexico remained one of the most dangerous countries in the world for members of the media. As of November, at least seven reporters had been killed, along with hundreds of threats and attacks attributed to organized crime groups, political officials, and various other actors.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 3.003 4.004

The president is elected to a six-year term and cannot be reelected. Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the left-leaning National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) won the 2018 poll with a commanding 53 percent of the vote. His closest rival, Ricardo Anaya—the candidate of the National Action Party (PAN) as well as of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and Citizens’ Movement (MC)—took 22 percent. The results of the 2018 poll represented a stark repudiation of outgoing president Enrique Peña Nieto and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which took just 16 percent of the vote.

A 2019 constitutional amendment enables citizens to initiate a recall referendum halfway through the president’s term. López Obrador considers the recall an opportunity to reinforce his political authority, and in December 2021 both the Supreme Court and the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF) ordered the National Electoral Institute (INE) to move forward with planning the referendum for April 2022, despite INE’s claim that the state had budgeted insufficient resources to undertake the balloting.

The 2018 election campaign was marked by violence and threats against candidates for state and local offices; at least 145 people died because of election-related violence. Accusations of illicit campaign activities remained frequent at the state and municipal level.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 3.003 4.004

Senators are elected for six-year terms through a mix of direct voting and proportional representation, with at least two parties represented in each state’s delegation. In the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the bicameral Congress, 300 members are elected through direct representation and 200 through proportional representation, each for three-year terms. Under a reform that took effect for legislators elected in 2018, senators are eligible to serve up to two six-year terms, and deputies are permitted to serve up to four three-year terms.

Since the 2018 elections, the MORENA-led coalition has commanded a majority in the 128-member Senate with 70 seats, compared to 24 for the PAN and 15 for the PRI. In the June 2021 Chamber of Deputies balloting, MORENA won 198 seats; combined with its allies in the Workers’ Party (PT) and the Green Party (PVEM), the governing coalition maintained a majority with 278 seats, but lost the supermajority that had allowed it to pursue constitutional changes. The PAN led the opposition, winning 114 seats, while its electoral coalition partners in the PRI and PRD won 70 and 15 seats, respectively.

Accusations of illicit campaign activities are frequent at the state and federal level, and violations reported in 2021included misuse of public funds, vote buying, and widespread flouting of campaign finance laws.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 3.003 4.004

The INE supervises elections and enforces political party laws, including strict regulations on campaign financing and the content of political advertising, although control is uneven in practice. While the 2018 and 2021 elections were both generally considered free and fair, the INE and the TEPJF struggled to comprehensively address problems including misuse of public funds, vote buying, and non-transparent campaign financing. Throughout 2021, the INE and the TEPJF were subjected to frequent verbal attacks by López Obrador and MORENA supporters, especially after the party’s gubernatorial candidates in Guerrero and Michoacán were among the dozens of MORENA candidates disqualified for failing to file campaign spending reports. However, the administration of the June balloting was considered successful.

President López Obrador has extolled the use of referendums known as citizen consultations. In August 2021, only 7 percent of voters turned out for a consultation on whether to initiate investigations into criminal conduct by López Obrador’s five immediate presidential predecessors, far below the 40 percent necessary for the poll to be binding.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 4.004 4.004

Mexico’s multiparty system features few official restrictions on political organization and activity. Opposition parties are competitive in many states, and independent candidacies are becoming more common, though independents achieved few wins in 2021. MORENA includes a wide range of ideological and political currents, and internal tensions were visible during the 2021 campaign. Most opposition parties, meanwhile, base their strategies around mobilizing anti-MORENA sentiment rather than proposing coherent policy agendas.

Nearly half of Mexico’s states held gubernatorial elections in 2021. MORENA candidates won in 11 of the 15 races, cementing the party’s strength at the subnational level. MORENA officials now govern 16 states and Mexico City. However, opposition candidates demonstrated strength in many urban areas and won a majority of Mexico City’s boroughs, reversing previous MORENA dominance in the city.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 4.004 4.004

Power has routinely changed hands at the national level since 2000. The dominant victory of López Obrador and MORENA in 2018 followed six years of government control by the PRI, which had ruled Mexico without interruption from 1929 to 2000, before losing consecutive presidential races to the right-leaning PAN in 2000 and 2006.

In order to avoid fragmenting the anti-MORENA vote in the 2021 elections, the PAN, PRI, and PRD united in an electoral coalition, resulting in increased seat share, though the PRI’s precipitous decline at all levels continued. The opposition also made gains in large cities and among middle-class voters, revealing possible shifts in the electorate that could increase competitiveness in subsequent elections.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 2.002 4.004

Criminal groups, while increasingly fragmented, exert powerful influence on the country’s politics through threats and violence against candidates, election officials, and campaign workers, particularly at the local level. At least 102 political officials were killed in campaign-related violence during the 2021 election season, including 36 candidates; according to election violence monitoring group Etellekt Consultores, 77 percent of the 1,066 election-linked attacks involved municipal races.

The López Obrador administration has assigned an increasing number of governance tasks to the military, one of Mexico’s least accountable institutions. The army is involved in the construction of several of the president’s signature projects, and in March 2021 the government announced that the army would maintain control of a tourist railroad in the Yucatán Peninsula known as the Maya Train—and receive any profits—upon the project’s completion, heightening concerns about military politicization.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 3.003 4.004

Mexico has a large Indigenous population, and Indigenous people and groups are free to participate in politics. There are some provisions for the integration of Indigenous community customs in electing leaders in some states, though only for local authorities. In practice, Indigenous people remain severely underrepresented in political institutions. Mexico’s small Afro-Mexican population is similarly underrepresented in national politics, though they are recognized in the constitution.

The 2018 and 2021 elections confirmed the success of gender requirements for candidacies and party lists: following the 2021 elections, 50 percent of representatives in the Chamber of Deputies and 49 percent in the Senate are women. Women also won an unprecedented six gubernatorial elections in 2021. However, the 2021 elections were marked by controversy surrounding MORENA’s gubernatorial candidate in Guerrero, Félix Salgado Macedonio, who faced multiple rape allegations. Women’s rights advocates faulted President López Obrador for continuing to support Salgado; following his disqualification for campaign finance violations, his daughter replaced him and was elected governor.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 2.002 4.004

Organized crime and related violence have limited the effective governing authority of elected officials in some areas of the country, as well as of the federal government. Members of organized crime groups have persisted in their attempts to infiltrate local governments in order to plunder municipal coffers and ensure their own impunity, a practice that again influenced electoral dynamics in 2021. The notorious and still unsolved mass disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero in 2014 was linked to a deeply corrupt local government collaborating with a drug gang, as well as corrupt or complicit members of various state security forces. In the most violent regions, the provision of public services has become more difficult, as public sector employees face extortion and pressure to divert public funds.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 1.001 4.004

Official corruption remains a serious problem. The billions of dollars in illegal drug money that enter the country each year from the United States profoundly affect politics, as does rampant public-contract fraud and other forms of siphoning off state funds. Attempts to prosecute officials for alleged involvement in corrupt or criminal activity have often failed due to the weakness of police and judicial capacity.

The López Obrador administration has made the pursuit of corruption a mantra, and a series of prominent figures from the Peña Nieto administration have been indicted or arrested on graft charges. However, critics describe López Obrador’s anticorruption efforts as politicized and generally ineffective. Political opponents are arrested with great fanfare, but few convictions have occurred. In contrast, investigations involving government allies and favored institutions are rare or perfunctory, as exemplified by the case of former army chief Salvador Cienfuegos, who was exonerated by prosecutors in January 2021, two months after being returned from the United States, where he had been arrested on drug trafficking charges in October 2020.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 2.002 4.004

Despite some limitations, several freedom of information laws passed since 2002 have successfully strengthened transparency at the federal level, though enforcement is uneven across states. In recent years, the government has failed to release relevant information on some of the country’s most controversial issues, including abuses by the security forces. The military, assigned ever-expanding roles under López Obrador, is one of the least transparent state institutions. In September 2021 the National Access to Information Institute (INAI) ordered the quasi-military National Guard to release data on the use of force by its agents, but as of year’s end officials had not complied. A November decree shielding public infrastructure projects from transparency and other administrative requirements was vocally denounced by transparency advocates. On several occasions in 2021, President López Obrador suggested shuttering INAI, prompting criticism by transparency advocates.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, government officials were accused of inadequate and incompetent management, including opacity about the virus’s true toll; data from the national statistics agency released in August showed far more deaths than federal figures.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 2.002 4.004

The security environment for journalists remains highly challenging. Reporters probing police issues, drug trafficking, and official corruption face serious, sustained risk of physical harm. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) named Mexico the deadliest country for journalists in 2020, and as of November 2021 CPJ had recorded the deaths of at least three journalists in Mexico in connection with their work, with another four killings of reporters and one journalist’s disappearance under investigation. Self-censorship has increased, with many newspapers in violent areas avoiding publication of stories concerning organized crime. Press watchdog groups have decried the slow pace of the federal government’s special prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression since the office gained authority in 2013. Several convictions in prominent cases of murdered journalists occurred in 2021, though 90 percent of cases of journalists who are killed are unresolved.

The Federal Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists within the Interior Secretariat, created in 2012, has successfully protected hundreds of activists and reporters, providing them safe houses, panic buttons, and bodyguards. However, the mechanism is underfunded and has not always proved effective: according to Article 19, 12 journalists receiving protection were killed between 2016 and June 2021.

Diversity of viewpoints in print and online media remains high, but broadcast television has long been dominated by the duopoly of Televisa and TV Azteca. Media outlets depend on government advertising and subsidies. Congress enacted legislation to regulate the distribution of state publicity in 2018; such advertising subsequently diminished significantly, but distribution remains heavily skewed toward a few of the largest outlets. In September 2021 the Supreme Court ruled that Congress must pass a more detailed rules governing state publicity.

Throughout 2021, López Obrador continued his daily morning news conferences, dominating news cycles and often chastising and demeaning specific reporters and news outlets. In addition, Article 19 has documented an increase in judicial harassment of journalists and activists, with 22 civil and criminal cases registered in the first half of 2021.

Mexico has been at the forefront of citizen-led efforts to ensure internet access. The 2013 amendments to Article 6 of the constitution made access to the internet a civil right. However, gangs have engaged in threats and violence against bloggers and online journalists who report on organized crime.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 4.004 4.004

Religious freedom is protected by the constitution and is generally respected in practice, though religious minorities, particularly Indigenous Evangelical communities in Chiapas, face occasional persecution by local authorities.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 3.003 4.004

While the government has generally refrained from restricting academic freedom, frictions between the government and the academic community rose sharply in 2021, with President López Obrador and other officials frequently stigmatizing universities as “neoliberal” institutions whose political orientation had “moved right.” More ominously, in August prosecutors began requesting arrest orders against 31 academic scientists for allegedly misusing public funds. Amid domestic and international outcry over the seemingly disproportionate charges—which included organized crime and money laundering—judges denied the requests, but academics and free expression advocates warned of an increasing atmosphere of intimidation facing university researchers and administrators. In November, students at a prestigious public university, the Center for Economic Teaching and Research, initiated a series of protests challenging the irregular appointment of new administrators perceived to be aligned with the government and arbitrary dismissals of several professors.

Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 due to repeated attacks on academic freedom in Mexican universities, including the launch of criminal investigations against dozens of academic scientists on disproportionate charges.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 3.003 4.004

While there are no formal impediments to free and open discussion, fear of criminal monitoring restricts citizens’ willingness to converse publicly about crime in some areas of the country.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 3.003 4.004

The constitution guarantees the right to peacefully assemble. Protests are frequent, though political and civic expression is restricted in some regions, and police frequently use excessive force and detain protesters arbitrarily.

During the López Obrador administration, controversy regarding protest-related violence has often centered on women’s rights demonstrations. In March 2021, several thousand women protested against violence against women and other forms of gender discrimination in Mexico City, resulting in clashes with police that left dozens of police and protesters injured; a march in support of abortion rights in September ended with a similar toll.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 2.002 4.004

Although highly active, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) sometimes face violent resistance; the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights counted 10 activist deaths by September 2021. Environmental activists and representatives of Indigenous groups contesting large-scale infrastructure projects have been particularly vulnerable. Revelations emerged in 2017 that government agencies had purchased the infamous Israeli Pegasus spyware to potentially surveil the electronic communications of numerous civil society activists; in 2021, activists continued to demand consequences amid ongoing investigative delays and news of additional potential victims.

The Federal Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists has provided physical security for hundreds of activists since its 2012 inception, though rights groups consider it sluggish and subject to government neglect.

Civil society members freely criticize state policies, but López Obrador’s penchant for dismissing criticism and insulting perceived opponents generated ongoing tension between the president and civil society organizations throughout 2021.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 2.002 4.004

Trade union membership has diminished significantly in recent decades. In 2019 major labor reform brought hope of an end to the rampant use of informal, nontransparent negotiations between employers and politically connected union leaders creating “protection contracts” never seen by workers. Labor rights provisions of the 2020 United States-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement have facilitated workers’ demands against abusive employers and complicit unions. In May 2021 the United States demanded review of a vote on an alleged protection contract at a General Motors plant in Guanajuato; following the determination that voting conditions were unfair, an August revote resulted in the rejection of the contract.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 2.002 4.004

The Supreme Court (SCJN) has been regarded in recent years as generally independent, but a series of appointments of justices viewed as close to the government has raised concerns about diminished autonomy under López Obrador. Such concerns persisted in 2021, with judicial independence advocates vocally objecting to an April 2021 law extending by two years the term of Arturo Zaldívar—viewed as an ally of President López Obrador—as president of the Supreme Court. Following months of criticism, Zaldívar announced in August that he would not extend his term past its originally scheduled end.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 1.001 4.004

Mexico’s justice system is plagued by delays, unpredictability, and corruption, which often lead to impunity for perpetrators of crimes. Implementation of an adversarial system was technically completed in 2016 and generated some improvements, but judicial system capacity remains inadequate. A lack of political commitment to prosecutorial autonomy and disinterest in deep reform has limited the efficacy of a 2018 overhaul of the prosecutorial services. Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero was subject to increasing criticism in 2021 as frustration mounted with the contrast between the agency’s lethargy in prominent matters including corruption and disappearance cases and its punitive zeal in pursuit of organized crime charges against scientists and other matters in which Gertz took personal interest.

Widespread bribery, limited capacity, and weak coordination undermine the integrity of the lower courts and law enforcement agencies. According to a September 2021 government report, the vast majority of crimes committed in 2020 went unreported, largely because underpaid police were viewed as either inept or in league with criminals. Widely publicized raids often result in the release of accused criminals due to grave procedural deficiencies. Amid faltering efforts to improve investigative and prosecutorial competence and efficacy, the López Obrador administration has sought to harden penalties and limit defendants’ rights, producing a sharp rise in the use of preventive detention and a rapidly increasing rate of prisoners in pretrial detention, most of whom are poor people charged with minor crimes.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 1.001 4.004

Mexicans are subject to the threat of violence at the hands of multiple actors, including individual criminals, criminal gangs that operate with impunity, and police officers who are often susceptible to bribery. A missing-persons registry—which continues to grow despite increased government efforts in recent years—reflects an epidemic of enforced disappearances. Mexicans in police or military custody are at risk of torture by the authorities, and must also navigate a prison system that respects neither due process nor physical safety.

Abuses during arrests and criminal investigations are rife, and detainees report routine physical abuse while being detained and held. The 2017 General Law on Torture established a prohibition on the use of torture and disqualified evidence obtained through its use. Though it has contributed to mild progress in excluding torture-based confessions from prosecutions, impunity remains almost universal.

Human rights advocates consistently express concern about a lack of accountability for abuses committed by members of the military, including torture, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions. Only a handful of soldiers have been convicted in civilian courts for abuses against civilians, despite myriad NGO and National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) reports implicating state security forces in grave human rights abuses. In April 2021, 30 Navy members were arrested in connection with a burst of dozens of murders and disappearances allegedly perpetrated by Navy units in Nuevo Laredo in 2018.

Forced disappearances and killings remain a crisis in Mexico, despite recent efforts to be more responsive to victims. The 2017 General Law on Disappearances removed the statute of limitations on missing-persons crimes, but progress remains very limited. As of the end of 2021, cases in the national registry numbered over 95,000, while an August report by a coalition of victims groups described a backlog of at least 52,000 unidentified remains. A September report by the Washington Office on Latin America covering 26 states found only 25 convictions on disappearance charges between 2018 and 2020, while federal prosecutors have made even fewer advances.

The kidnapping and presumed deaths of 43 students in Guerrero in 2014 remains a watershed case. President López Obrador created a presidential commission to investigate the case after taking office, and in 2019 a new special prosecutor was assigned to manage it. Slow advances continued in 2021, but the truth about the missing students’ fates remained unknown at year’s end.

As in previous years, the government’s primary response to insecurity hotspots was the deployment of militarized forces. In 2019, a law pushed by President López Obrador established a nominally civilian-led gendarmerie that drew from the Army, Navy, and federal police. This National Guard has been sharply criticized by rights advocates for reinforcing the militarization of public security. Although the force is legally required to undergo a process of civilianization, there was no indication of progress in this direction in 2021.

Homicides have plateaued in recent years, but remained near historic highs in 2021. Violence linked to organized crime was particularly acute in Zacatecas, Baja California, and Colima, while Michoacán was characterized by intense localized violence throughout the year. While large organizations like the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Sinaloa Cartel continue to drive insecurity in some areas, the splintering of other criminal groups, along with the diversification of their revenue sources, has made efforts to combat the violence even more daunting.

Mexican prisons remain highly unsafe, with inmates commonly engaging in criminal activity while incarcerated. Fears about the spread of COVID-19 in overcrowded prisons provided impetus to pass the Amnesty Law in April 2020, but the measure was limited in scope, and in its first year it benefited only 5 prisoners.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 1.001 4.004

Mexican law bans discrimination based on ethnic origin, gender, age, religion, and sexual orientation. Nevertheless, lighter-skinned Mexicans enjoy substantial social advantage compared to Indigenous people and other distinct groups. The large Indigenous population experiences social and economic discrimination, and approximately 77 percent of Indigenous people live in poverty. Southern states with high concentrations of Indigenous residents suffer from deficient services, a problem that had particularly negative health consequences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because Indigenous groups are in particular danger from criminal violence, communities in Guerrero and Michoacán have formed self-defense groups, some of which were subsequently legalized. In 2021, a sharp rise in organized crime threats and violence targeting Indigenous communities prompted a wave of self-defense group formation in Chiapas. Afro-Mexicans face discrimination, though the 2020 census included an option for Afro-Mexican self-identification for the first time.

LGBT+ people have strong legal protections, but they are not uniformly enforced. Transgender women in particular face discrimination and violence.

Migrants from Central America and other regions, many of whom move through Mexico to reach the United States, have long faced persecution and criminal predation. The López Obrador administration initially sought to protect migrants, but reversed course in 2019 under United States threats of punitive economic measures. In response, the National Guard was ordered to block or arrest migrants moving northward, a policy that led to both record detentions and numerous complaints of serious rights abuses in 2021. In January the bodies of 19 murder victims, including multiple migrants, were found in Tamaulipas, leading to February murder charges against 12 Tamaulipas police officers.

The combination of increasing migration and a series of United States policies, including the 2019 Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and the rapid deportations implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, have resulted in tens of thousands of people stranded in border cities like Ciudad Juárez and Nuevo Laredo and facing extreme risk of kidnapping and extortion. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated harsh migrant shelter conditions. The government has made some remediation efforts, but conditions along the border remained highly precarious throughout 2021.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 3.003 4.004

Citizens are generally free to change their place of residence, employment, or education. However, criminals have impeded freedom of movement by blocking major roads in several states in recent years, and ordinary citizens avoid roads in many rural areas after dark.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 2.002 4.004

Property rights in Mexico are protected by a modern legal framework, but the weakness of the judicial system, frequent solicitation of bribes by bureaucrats and officials, and the high incidence of criminal extortion harm security of property for many individuals and businesses. Large-scale development projects, including high-priority López Obrador initiatives, have been accompanied by corruption and rights-related controversy in recent years, exemplified in 2021 by the ongoing dispute over the Maya Train.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 2.002 4.004

Sexual abuse and domestic violence against women are common, and perpetrators are rarely punished. Implementation of a 2007 law designed to protect women from such crimes remains halting, particularly at the state level, and impunity is the norm for the killers of hundreds of women each year. State authorities can issue “gender alerts” that trigger greater scrutiny and an influx of resources to combat an epidemic of violence against women, but the mechanism has proven ineffective. According to official statistics, femicides and rapes rose in the first 11 months of 2021.

The government has made some efforts to combat violence and promote gender equality, but the López Obrador administration has also cut funding for women’s services and in 2021, as in previous years, the president frequently dismissed feminists as allies of the political opposition.

Abortion has been a contentious issue in recent years. Many states reacted to Mexico City’s 2007 liberalization of abortion laws by strengthening their own criminal bans on the procedure. In a landmark ruling in September 2021, the Supreme Court declared laws criminalizing abortion unconstitutional, though state-by-state legislative reforms or judicial challenges will be required to give the ruling effect beyond the four states that had already legalized the procedure.

Mexico has taken steps toward equality for LGBT+ people, though significant cultural and legal barriers persist. A 2015 Supreme Court decision overruled state laws defining the purpose of marriage as procreation. Following a decree by the Guanajuato state executive in December 2021, 26 states had legalized same-sex marriage. In September 2021, Morelos became the 15th state to allow gender changes on identification documents.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 2.002 4.004

Economic opportunity is limited in Mexico, which maintains a high rate of economic inequality. Migrant agricultural workers face brutally exploitative conditions in several northern states. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that Mexico’s millions of domestic workers—the vast majority of whom are women—must be incorporated into the formal sector and receive social security and health benefits. The López Obrador administration has increased some forms of redistributive spending, and in recent years has sharply increased Mexico’s minimum wage.

Mexico is a major source, transit, and destination country for trafficking in persons, including women and children, many of whom are subject to forced labor and sexual exploitation. Organized criminal gangs are heavily involved in human trafficking in Mexico and into the United States. This danger has been exacerbated since 2019 by the United States’ denial of entry to migrants and asylum seekers, which has forced thousands of migrants to wait in dangerous nearby cities, as well as by the economic disruption associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Mexico

See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

See More
  • Global Freedom Score

    60 100 partly free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    60 100 partly free