It’s getting election to be election season in Mexico, so all kinds of events are seen through the lens of trying to get a leg up for the 2012 presidential campaign.
This weekend seemed to kick it off. Soldiers stormed into the home of former Tijuana mayor Jorge Hank Rhon and bundled him off to a holding cell on firearms charges. The army said it found 88 rifles and handguns in the house. Click here for the story I did on Saturday.
The bust has set off a firestorm. First, Hank Rhon is the scion of the PRI baron Carlos Hank Gonzalez, the former school teacher who rose through party ranks to become the mayor of Mexico City and the governor of the nearby state of Mexico. He was seen as particularly close to Salinas de Gortari. The patriarch died in 2001.
Hank Rhon has vigorously protested his innocence, saying he’d never seen the guns before and that he’d been framed by the soldiers.
Hank is a colorful character who liked to add bear bile, rattlesnake tails and scorpions to his shots of tequila. The head of his bodyguard detail has reportedly gone missing. He is the son of a Hank aide who was charged with slaying a journalist from a respected Tijuana magazine.
Whether Hank Rhon is guilty or not, I don’t know. But what several columnists point out is that the timing of his arrest is fishy. It comes a month before a key gubernatorial election in Mexico State to replace outgoing Gov. Enrique Pena Nieto, a candidate who many Mexicans feel is the presumptive next president. Mexico State politicians are denying up and down that Hank has used some of his sizable fortune to influence the election. But his family does has a very strong base in the state.
It’s not the only suspicious and odd event in recent hours. Last night, federal police busted into the Paso del Norte Human Rights Center in Ciudad Juarez without a warrant and conducted an illegal search. The center has been active in promoting a visit to the city by Javier Sicilia, a poet who following the murder of his son is leading an effective campaign against President Felipe Calderon’s security policies, which have coincided with a rapid rise in fatalities
These events, rather than a quest for security and justice, seem to be hardball politics, Mexican style.