As Fulano blogged on Saturday, the former Mayor of Tijuana, Jorge Hank Rhon, was arrested at his house and a cache of illegal weapons were discovered.
The Mexican press is covering every minute detail of what is going on, and politicians have lined up along party lines on the issue. As Hank Rhon is a powerful member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI for its initials in Spanish) every PRI politician has voiced strong opposition to Rhon’s arrest, claiming politics and dirty tricks as the motivation for his arrest.
There is a cacophony of competing accusations and rebuttals endlessly streaming across the wires. One island of clarity in all this is a Wikileak of a consular message from former American consul in Tijuana Richard Kramer. In it, Kramer accuses Hank Rhon of harboring criminals and using Mexican police on his payroll. Here is 09TIJUANA709:
R 082351Z JUL 09
FM AMCONSUL TIJUANA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 8977
INFO AMEMBASSY MEXICO
ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
SUBJECT: LAW ENFORCEMENT HIGH JINKS IN TJ: HOW NARCOTRAFFICKERS EVADE AUTHORITIES
CLASSIFIED BY: ARADETSKY, Political Officer, Pol/Econ, STATE. REASON: 1.4 (d)
1. (C) Mexican state and federal authorities have made impressive numbers of arrests and narcotics seizures over the last two years in Baja California, weakening, but not defeating, the organized crime syndicates that operate in the state. Despite these successes, the complex interactions among the various local and federal law enforcement agencies and local powerbrokers make Baja California, and Tijuana in particular, still a relatively safe place for narcotraffickers to ply their trade.
2. (C) This fact was demonstrated by a June 30 incident in front of Consulate Tijuana. Acting on information from the law enforcement community (LEC), Post’s ARSO requested Baja California State Preventative Police (PEP) appear at the Consulate to arrest an American citizen who had a U.S. arrest warrant for drug trafficking and was scheduled to come in to renew his passport that day. PEP forces, as they have done in similar cases in the past, duly stationed an unmarked car outside the Consulate and waited for the subject to exit the building. However, when the subject walked out, he entered a Crown Victoria vehicle with two body guards which quickly sped off and entered the parking lot of the Agua Caliente Racetrack, across the street from the Consulate, which is owned by Tijuana former mayor Jorge Hank Rohn. (NOTE: it is unclear if the bodyguards inside the Crown Victoria were policemen offering protection to the subject or part of Hank’s security apparatus, but the Crown Victoria is a typical car used by policemen who provide protection for drug traffickers or government officials). As soon as the vehicle entered the Racetrack, the PEP forces stopped their (half-hearted) pursuit and told ARSO that they “could not enter” the racetrack. And that was that.
3. (C) Hank is widely believed to have been a corrupt mayor and to be still involved in narco-trafficking. Post usually receives exceptional cooperation from the PEP, but our normal liaison declined to involve himself in this case, and ARSO also found it odd that the PEP stationed outside the Consulate did not use normal police situational awareness procedures to notice the Crown Victoria before the subject’s escape. Despite Hank’s political defeat in the 2007 Baja California gubernatorial race, he still enjoys wide influence in Tijuana, and state law enforcement officials appear unwilling to meddle on areas considered his turf. This is not the first time law enforcement agencies from outside Tijuana have rubbed up against Hank. Just a month ago, Mexican military forces were involved in a standoff with local security at Hank’s racetrack. There are still plenty of safe havens for organized crime in the border region.