HomeNewsAnalysisEx-Tijuana Mayor Rhon Free; Mexico Govt Reeling
ANALYSIS

Ex-Tijuana Mayor Rhon Free; Mexico Govt Reeling

MEXICO / 15 JUN 2011 BY STEVEN DUDLEY EN

In a giant setback for the Mexican government, Jorge Hank Rhon, the flamboyant former Tijuana mayor with an uncanny ability to escape prosecution, was released (twice) just days after his arrest for illegal possession of weapons and hours after being charged with murder.

Hank Rhon was first freed in the early hours of Tuesday morning, after a judge threw out the gun charges against him on grounds of insufficient evidence. This was despite reports that dozens of unlicensed guns were found in his home, two of which were allegedly used to commit homicides.

The business magnate was then taken for questioning over his connections to various murder cases, including that of his son's girlfriend in 2009. Again, the judge ruled against holding him while the government investigates what may be three separate murder charges.

Hank Rhon, one of the country's richest men, has been connected to the Tijuana Cartel, the murder of a journalist, breaking customs laws by trafficking ivory, and numerous other shady operations. However, he has consistently eluded jail and remains one of the most powerful men in the state of Baja California. His name circulates as a possible candidate for governor of the state or a return as mayor of Tijuana.

The former mayor's release leaves the Mexican government of Felipe Calderon, and by extension his political party, the National Action Party (Partido de Accion Nacional - PAN), with a huge credibility problem as it tries to convince Mexicans that the battle it began against organized crime when Calderon took power in 2006 is bearing fruit.

While the government has killed and imprisoned numerous top Mexican criminals, what most Mexicans see is violence -- nearly 40,000 dead since Calderon entered office -- and a government that is ill-prepared to take on the country's dark political powerbrokers such as Hank Rhon.

Hank Rhon's family made its money the old fashioned way: via connections with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional - PRI). His father, Carlos Hank Gonzalez, was famous for saying, "A politician who is poor is a poor politician."

Jorge Hank Rhon is now one of the wealthiest businessmen in Mexico and wields considerable power in other areas such as Mexico State, which is preparing for what is expected to be a hotly contested election in November.

Hank Rhon's arrest sparked criticisms that the Calderon government was putting him in the "freezer," in Mexican political parlance, i.e., neutralizing him during the election season. Ironically, it was the politician who was seen as the victim. Tijuana residents were photographed with pro-Hank Rhon T-shirts that said things like "Todos Somos Hank" (We are all Hank).

The arrest and subsequent releases of the business magnate have given rise to a round of infighting amongst Mexico's authorities. The federal organized crime agency SIEDO said that the release had damaged the image of both the justice system and the Mexican Army, while others accused the government of cutting a deal with Hank Rhon's party, the PRI, and described the events as a "farce."

The case is an indictment of a justice system that many consider broken. The crumbling case against the politician calls to mind the "michoacanazo," the arrest of dozens of state and local politicians in Calderon's home state of Michoacan in May 2009. In the end, every single one of the arrested officials was released without a single conviction, an embarrassing result that the government blames on poor judicial decisions.

The Mexican research organization ICESI estimated in its 2010 annual study on crime that fewer than one offense in every 100 makes it in front of a judge.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

GUERREROS UNIDOS / 10 FEB 2016

A new report by an international forensics team has cast further doubt on the government's version of what happened to…

MEXICO / 14 MAY 2012

The discovery of close to 50 mutilated bodies in a northeastern Mexico state, which was quickly blamed on the…

MEXICO / 12 MAY 2016

Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico, is urging the country's current administration to negotiate with drug cartels to put an…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…