[Marxism] Criminals Against Crime
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Sun Jul 18 01:59:53 MDT 2004
July 17, 2004
Mayoral hopeful vows to cut crime in Tijuana
But foes say he's more of a criminal than a crimefighter
By IOAN GRILLO (Houston Chronicle)
JORGE HANK RHON
Controversial businessman running for Tijuana mayor:
Born in Toluca in central Mexico in 1956. His father was a rural
schoolteacher who became one of Mexico's most powerful politicians.
Moved to Tijuana in 1983. His businesses there include a dog track, a
shopping center, a restaurant and betting parlors. He estimates his fortune
at $500 million.
Has 18 children and 400 pet dogs.
Has a private zoo of 10,000 animals at his race track.
Now campaigning for mayor of Tijuana.
TIJUANA, MEXICO - "Two women abducted and murdered," screams the newspaper
headline that flashes across the television screen in a political campaign
"Man shot dead in broad daylight," trumpets another headline.
The newspaper images then dissolve to reveal the calm face of Jorge Hank
Rhon, millionaire dog-track owner and Tijuana mayoral candidate.
"The authorities in this city aren't capable of stopping crime," Hank says,
throwing the newspapers onto a table.
Hank, 48, a businessman from one of the nation's most powerful political
families, hopes his aggressive law-and-order campaign will win him the Aug.
1 mayoral election in this crime-ridden border city of 1.5 million people.
Such a victory would return Tijuana to the Institutional Revolutionary
Party, or PRI, which ruled Mexico for seven decades before losing the
presidency in 2000.
But Hank's candidacy has generated lots of questions. Some critics,
including the Tijuana weekly newspaper Zeta, have suggested the millionaire
himself could be involved in criminal activity.
Zeta recently published a story speculating that Hank may have masterminded
the slaying of one of its editors, Francisco Ortiz, who was shot dead in
front of his children June 22.
Police are looking into all lines of investigation but have not yet
questioned Hank about the killing, Raul Gutierrez, a spokesman for the
Tijuana state police, said last week.
Hank denies any involvement.
The Zeta article is the latest in a series of stories critical of Hank that
have been published in Mexico and the United States over the years.
"They have no basis for their accusations. It's just hearsay," Hank said in
fluent English on a recent drive through a tough Tijuana neighborhood in his
"If they had any proof, then I wouldn't be here. I would be in jail."
Born in Toluca, Hank is the youngest son of the late Carlos Hank Gonzalez, a
rural schoolteacher who became one of the most powerful Mexican politicians
of his era, occupying several Cabinet posts and serving as mayor of Mexico
City. Hank Gonzalez also created a business empire that Forbes estimated was
worth $1.3 billion.
"A politician who is poor is a poor politician," Hank Gonzalez was famous
The younger Hank has often made headlines because of his lavish lifestyle
and colorful personality.
Married three times and the father of 18 children, Hank has a personal zoo
of 10,000 animals, including Bengal and Siberian tigers. He has 400 pet
Until this year, he dedicated himself to his businesses running the dog
track, betting parlors, hotel and shopping mall that have made him a fortune
he estimates at $500 million.
But, he said, he always intended to follow his father into politics.
"I was just waiting for the proper moment," he said.
The mayoral race between Hank and his chief rival, Jorge Ramos, of President
Vicente Fox's National Action Party, is likely to be decided by a few
thousand votes, said Luis Carlos Lopez, an analyst at Baja California's
According to many surveys, crime the focus of Hank's campaign is the No.
1 concern of Mexican voters.
Hank pins the blame for the crime wave in Tijuana, which has recorded more
than 300 homicides annually in recent years, on the National Action Party,
which has governed the border city since 1989.
The mayoral candidate wants to install video cameras to keep watch over the
city and to provide police officers with equipment that would track their
"We have to look over the police as well," he said.
Some, however, say that Hank is not the best person to clean up Tijuana's
"Considering his record, Hank should not be a candidate for mayor," Lopez
In 1988, one of Hank's bodyguards, Antonio Vera Palestina, was convicted of
murdering Hector Felix Miranda, an editor at Zeta, which has published
hundreds of exposés on corruption and drug trafficking. Police cleared Hank
of any involvement in that slaying.
But Zeta has pressed for the case to be reopened and has published a weekly
letter in the name of Felix that says: "Jorge Hank Rhon: Why did your
bodyguard kill me?" Hank has repeatedly denied any connection to the crime.
Ortiz, the Zeta editor killed last month, had been working with the
Miami-based Inter-American Press Association on an independent investigation
of the 1988 slaying.
In the 1990s, U.S. authorities investigated the Hank family for alleged
links to organized crime. No charges were filed.
"Hank's candidacy is a shame on Tijuana and the PRI," said Luz Elena Picos,
editor of the city's Red Social newspaper.
Hank also has drawn controversy with his offhand remarks. Last month, the
candidate caused a stir when he told Mexico City's El Universal newspaper
that his favorite animal is "woman."
Riding in his campaign bus, Hank defended the comment, saying all humans are
"They teach us in primary school that we belong to the animal kingdom," he
Hank's campaign is now focusing on Tijuana's poorer communities, which,
analysts say, could provide key votes in the Aug. 1 election.
Although he is worth millions of dollars, Hank said he relates to the
residents of the slums, some of which have no paved roads or running water.
"I was raised in these communities. I always related to the children of
workers," Hank said. "I enjoy their company, and they enjoy mine."
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