Mexican Authorities Return Former Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon To Baja As Federal Prisoner
June 9, 2011 By Staff
Today in Latin America
Top Story — Mexican federal prosecutors formally charged Wednesday the former mayor of Tijuana with illegal possession of a large cache of firearms and ammunition and brought him back to Baja California state from Mexico City.
Jorge Hank Rhon, one of Mexico’s richest men and a major player in the country’s opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was arrested on Saturday when soldiers raided his expansive Tijuana estate, which includes a casino, a huge private zoo and a soccer stadium. The army said it found 88 firearms and nearly 10,000 rounds of ammunition.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration provided intelligence to Mexican authorities, but an unnamed source did not elaborate on the nature of the information.
After the raid Hank was transferred to the El Hongo State Penitentiary east of Tijuana, with members of his security team. The former politician, who owns the Agua Caliente dog-racing track and casino, was then flown to Mexico City for questioning before arriving today at the border city of Tecate after federal prosecutors charged him with possession of prohibited weapons.
It is now up to a federal judge to decide if there is enough evidence to send Hank and his security team to trial.
Hank is one of the most enigmatic and controversial figures in Mexican politics. The son of a former PRI governor of the central state of Mexico, he is allegedly involved in drug trafficking, kidnapping and the murder of a Tijuana journalist.
In Tijuana, thousands of people took to the streets to demand the former mayor’s release. Hank has a large number of supporters who claim that he has sought to help the poor and rumors have also been swirling that he is considering running for another political position in Baja California, perhaps governor.
“We are at ease because he’s here now,” said Manuel Lomeli Bolaños, after Hank was returned to state. “We are confident that he’ll be freed in less than one week if things turn out as we expect.”
Supporter’s of Hank and PRI members are claiming foul play from President Felipe Calderón’s government, with the country heading into its presidential campaign season and the unusual circumstances – no search warrant – surrounding the raid. Mexico’s federal security spokesman, Alejandro Poire, denied Monday that the arrest was a political hit on the PRI by Calderón’s National Action Party.
“Those things are part of the past and what’s happening in Mexico today is a big push for the rule of law, which had long been missing,” Poiré said, according to The Associated Press.
Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, also doubts the arrest had to do with politics in the lead up top the elections, as the government would have sought a more prominent opposition figure
“I suspect that Calderón wants to show that his government won’t stand for impunity from public officials and former public officials,” Selee said to The Associated Press. “Hank is a relatively easy target compared to other politicians since he’s now out of government and is seen as something of a maverick even within his own party.”
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Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
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- Mexican federal prosecutors arrested a man who had plastic surgery and assumed a female identity to avoid capture for defrauding a government health agency on a sound system contract.
- Mexican authorities seized two homemade tank-like vehicles earlier this week in the northern state of Tamaulipas that allegedly were made for the Zetas Cartel.
- The mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a political prisoner who died last year after a prolonged hunger strike, says she will continue to fight for democracy in Cuba after she emigrates to the United States on Thursday.
- Haitians cleaned up homes and streets Wednesday as rains let up and rivers receded following an early summer storm that caused flooding, wrecked homes and killed more than two dozen people.
- Amnesty International said Tuesday that a former Guatemalan police chief must be brought to justice on allegations of his involvement in extrajudicial executions.
- A Harvard law professor and his affiliates authored a report examining the constitutionality of the 2009 coup in Honduras and have called for constitutional reforms in the country.
- The British government updated its travel advice about Costa Rica, warning that eight foreign nationals have gone missing in the country in the last two years.
- El Salvador’s foreign minister says Central American nations should share some embassies to reduce costs.
- Leftist guerrillas in southern Colombia have kidnapped four oil workers for Emerald Energy, which is a subsidiary of Chinese chemical company Sinochem (600500.SH), a military official said Wednesday.
- Peru’s leftist president elect Ollanta Humala said he would govern as a moderate and invited investors to buy beaten-down Peruvian stocks, in an interview Wednesday with the Wall Street Journal.
- The Brazilian Supreme Court ruled not to extradite leftist militant Cesare Battisti to his home country of Italy after he was convicted of the murder of four people during the 1970s.
- A soccer stadium in Santa Fe, Argentina, that will be hosting Copa America games lacks a lighting system just three weeks before the tournament begins.
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Image:Juan Manuel @ Flickr.