Mexico

image courtesy Texas Tribune

Mexico’s commitment to security and its strong symbiotic economic ties with the United States will probably be key talking points when the country's next leader visits the White House on Tuesday, according to a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto will meet with President Obama and congressional leaders to discuss the countries’ futures amid a sluggish economy and concerns over transnational violence. Peña Nieto, who won Mexico’s presidential election in July, will take the oath of office Saturday. His victory brings a return to power for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which was in charge for more than 70 years last century. The conservative National Action Party, or PAN, had been in power the last 12 years.

Antonio Garza, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico from 2002 to 2009 and is now counsel in the Mexico City office of White & Case, said Peña Nieto should stress Mexico’s place in the world as an emerging market.

flickr.com/stayfadedphotography

The head of incoming Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's transition team says that Mexico may re-evaluate its policies regarding marijuana export to the United States.

Currently, Mexico works with the United States to discourage the growing of pot within Mexico, and to prevent its shipment across the border to the United States.

But today Luis Videgaray, a top aid to Peña Nieto, characterized votes by Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana use and personal cultivation as a game changer.

The Washington Times reports that in remarks to a Mexico City radio station, Videgaray said that "obviously we can't handle a product that is illegal in Mexico, trying to stop its transfer to the United States, when in the United States, at least in part of the United States, it now has a different status."

Sugar skulls, tamales, and spirits (the alcoholic kind) — these are things you might find on homemade altars to entice those who've passed to the other side back for a visit. The altars, built in homes and around tombstones, are for Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, a tradition originating in central Mexico on Nov. 1 and 2.

Charles Reed, Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System

The United States is returning to Mexico more than 4,000 architectural relics that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have seized across the nation.

ICE says many of the items date from before European explorers reached the North American continent. The items include pre-Columbian stones used to grind corn and other grains, statues, figurines, copper hatchets and other artifacts.

"Top Zetas drug cartel leader Heriberto Lazcano has apparently been killed in a firefight with marines in the northern border state of Coahuila, the Mexican navy said late Monday."

Carrying the weight of his murdered son’s memory, a Mexican poet is leading a national caravan — with stops in Austin and several other Texas cities — to publicly condemn American drug policies.

Javier Sicilia and his Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity, a group whose members have been affected by drug-related violence in Mexico — including several who have lost loved ones — will descend on the state Capitol on Aug. 25. The group aims to raise awareness of how it says U.S. drug policy, particularly the war on drugs, has affected Mexico.

“In order to protect the 23 million drug consumers in the United States, this nation initiated this war that has destroyed Colombia and which now in turn is destroying Mexico, Central America, and is also menacing to destroy in the medium term the United States itself,” Sicilia wrote on the movement’s website. “The burden we bear upon us contains the weight of our dead, of our missing ones, of those displaced, of our criminalized and humiliated immigrants.”

While the exact number of dead seems to be in flux, there is no question that the last few days have been incredibly bloody across Mexico.

Todd Wiseman / CIMMYT for Texas Tribune

The likely return to power of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in Mexico has prompted Mexicans and Texans alike to question whether the party’s former alleged practice of making deals with cartel members will be the standard after President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto is sworn on Dec. 1.

But some experts on U.S.-Mexico relations say that what the party is likely to do — focus on the most brutal elements of organized crime — isn’t deal-making or playing favorites, but instead similar to what American law enforcement does: focus resources where they are needed most.

Peña Nieto edged leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador after garnering 38.2 percent of the vote, or 19.2 million ballots, to López Obrador’s 31.6 percent, about 15.9 million. Josefina Vázquez Mota, of current President Felipe Calderón’s National Action Party, finished third with 25.4 percent, about 12.8 million ballots cast, according to the official and final computations released late Monday by the country’s Federal Electoral Institute.

Edgar Alberto Domínguez Cataño / Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

MEXICO CITY — After 12 years of rule under the conservative National Action Party, Mexicans on Sunday appeared to have elected a candidate from the Institutional Revolutionary Party to lead Texas’ largest trade partner and southern neighbor. 

Enrique Peña Nieto, 45, the former governor of the state of Mexico, was projected to best challengers Josefina Vázquez Mota of the National Action Party and Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the leftist progressive alliance, made up of the Party of the Democratic Revolution and the Labor Party. Peña Nieto, who would succeed President Felipe Calderón, would be sworn in in December and serve a single six-year term; Mexican law prohibits presidents from serving more than one term.

"Mexico's old guard sailed back into power after a 12-year hiatus Sunday," The Associated Press writes, "as the official preliminary vote count handed a victory to Enrique Pena Nieto, whose party was long accused of ruling the country through corruption and patronage."

Wikipedia user Alex Covarrubias, bit.ly/QOx74q

Mexican citizens will head to the polls Sunday to elect a new president.

They will chose between PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, the left wing Democratic Revolution candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, National Action Party candidate and former Vincente Fox education official Josefina Vázquez Mota, and New Alliance Party Candidate Gabriel Quadri de la Torre.

The new president will take over a country whose northern states have suffered an unprecedented level of violence since the beginning of PAN President Felipe Calderón’s crackdown on the drug cartels. And Texas’ proximity to the border, large immigrant population and strong economic ties to Mexico has many paying attention to the results.

Two big pieces of news in Mexico's presidential race today:

-- A new poll finds that the PRI's Enrique Peña Nieto has maintained a big lead over his rivals Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Josefina Vázquez Mota. The election is this Sunday and a few polls before this one showed Obrador had narrowed the gap.

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Low-Turnout Election Returns Incumbents to Council

Voters returned all four incumbents on the Austin City Council – including Mayor Lee Leffingwell – to the dais on Saturday.

The council members’ fates were revealed as soon as early voting totals were released, with the incumbents – Leffingwell, Place 2 council member Mike Martinez, Place 5 council member Bill Spelman, and Place 6 council member Sheryl Cole – all leading by comfortable margins.

Many of the council members commented on the exceedingly low-turnout in the election – just under five percent in early voting, and roughly the same amount on election day. Similarly, many of the council members also endorsed the idea of moving municipal elections to November, and moving to a form of geographic representation for the city council. Voters will most likely have a chance to vote on those proposals this November.

Mexico is reeling from another round of brutal murders of journalists. Four journalists and photographers who covered the police beat have been killed in eastern Mexico's crime-ridden state of Veracruz.

There's a new call for the federal government to take measures to protect journalists in a country where more and more reporters censor themselves out of fear.

The ceremony to remember the most recent killings took place last weekend in Mexico City on the steps of the Monument of Independence between statues depicting peace and law.

In a massive investigation, The New York Times reported Saturday that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. silenced a vast bribery effort that top executives of Mexican subsidiary Wal-Mart de Mexico carried out in order to build stores across the country.

According to the report:

Image courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

Tech blog Mashable has created a Storify timeline culling links and social media updates on the recent Mexico earthquake, and its reverberations in the United States. We've embedded it below. 

The USGS says an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4 hit southwest Mexico today.

The United States Geological Survey says it was 6.2 miles deep and about 120 miles east of Acapulco.

We'll have more on this story as it develops.

Update at 3:54 p.m. ET. Back To Normal:

NPR's Jason Beaubien, reporting from the Zocalo area of Mexico City, says officials report no deaths and no major damage.

Photo courtesy National Weather Service

Caution Urged in Storm’s Aftermath

Storms pummeled the Austin area overnight. Mayor Lee Leffingwell has issued a statement “calling on Central Texans to be cautious and patient after storms moved through our city last night:”

Map image State of Texas; Doggett photo doggett.house.gov; Vote photo KUT News

DC Questions Doggett's New District

District 25 in Texas newly-redistricted voting map is currently represented by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, and encompasses a large portion of Travis County.  But now, a federal court in Washington DC has questions about District 25 that could delay Texas 2012 primaries yet again.

The main issue is whether District 25 – which contains white, Hispanic, and African-American voters –  deserves minority protection under the Voting Rights Act or not. 

 The court asked for briefs by March 13 on District 25, and if they deem it a minority district deserving protection, that would send the map back to the drawing board, the Austin American-Statesman reports, with primaries falling well into the summer.

Texas only recently saw its primary date set for May 29.

Image courtesy courtesy of the Trail Foundation, townlaketrail.org

Mounting Expense for Lady Bird Boardwalk 

In 2010, City of Austin voters ushered in Proposition 1, a project to construct a boardwalk trail over and along Lady Bird Lake. Back then, the estimated cost of the project was $17.4 million, but as of today, the lowest bid (of eight) is $20.7 million. That's a 19% jump.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the cost increase can be attributed to two main factors: Oil prices (no surprise there) and a construction industry still trying to correct itself post-recession. Builders are finally doing things they put off during those lean years, like replacing old equipment, and that's made government building projects more costly. Still, city officials aren't worried about coming up with the extra money. 

Pages