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,

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; 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,

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. 

Earlier this month, the National Action Party of Mexico nominated the country's first ever female presidential candidate, economist Josefina Vazquez Mota. As Vazquez Mota accepted the nomination, she vowed to be the first woman to become the Mexican head of state.

The PAN, as the conservative party is known in Spanish, is Mexico's current ruling party. It has also put forth a woman, Isabel Miranda de Wallace, in Mexico City's mayoral race. Both elections take place on July 1.

Photo illustration by Ben Hasson for the Texas Tribune

Texas economists are confident that the financial upheavals long associated with Mexican elections are a thing of the past. Still, they are closely watching what this summer's presidential contest means for the peso and, in turn, Texas' symbiotic business ties to Mexico.

Texas politicians are paying close attention, too — to whether the trade, security and energy policies of President Felipe Calderón’s successor will affect illegal immigration or the state’s robust trade relationship with Mexico.

Three Texas customs districts, Laredo, El Paso and Houston, rank among Mexico’s top four trading partners. Collectively, they accounted for roughly $235 billion in trade between Texas and Mexico from January to September 2011, according to United States Census data analyzed by WorldCity, which tracks global trade patterns. The figures show an increase over 2010 despite the American recession and unprecedented violence in Mexico because of warring drug cartels.

Photo by Flickr user pantagrapher

U.S. and Mexican authorities today signed an agreement that will allow trucks from both countries to carry goods far beyond the border separating the two.

In Mexico, one controversial part of President Felipe Calderon's war against the drug cartels has been the use of the military to fight organized crime. Now in the border state of Tamaulipas, the Mexican army is taking over full control of the police departments in some of the state's most troubled cities.

Photo by NASA Earth Observatory

As large wildfires in Texas grab most of the US media's attention, a large piece of sparely populated land is being scorched by flames in Northern Mexico.  The fires, named El Bonito and La Sabina, are among the largest in Mexican history. More than 493,827 acres have been scorched since mid-March, the Latin American Herald Tribune reports.