Release of former Tijuana mayor compounds Mexico's judicial credibility problem
Tuesday's release of Jorge Hank Rhon after being held on gun charges is a blow to a government that can't seem to make charges against organized crime stick, writes guest blogger Steven Dudley.
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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.Skip to next paragraph
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Hank Rhon's arrest sparked criticisms that the Calderón 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 Calderón's home state of Michoacán 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.
---Steven Dudley is a director at Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of his research here.