Skip to content

Polemic PRI politician pins hopes on Tijuana soccer team

November 28, 2012

Controversial gambling magnate and former Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon revealed this week that he will run for the Baja California governorship in next year’s state election.

Hank, whose son Jorge Hank Inzunza owns local soccer club Tijuana, believes that if the side wins the Mexican league final this weekend it will boost his chances in the election.

Tijuana, also known as Xolos, faces Toluca in the final of the Apertura 2012 soccer league, with home and away ties scheduled for Thursday night and Sunday afternoon.

Founded in 2007, Tijuana is in search of its first title, having only been promoted to Mexico’s top division, the Liga MX, in the summer of 2011.

“Xolos are obviously the team of Baja California, but also the team of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party),” Hank said.  “The rise of Xolos … brings votes for the party, and for me in the race for governor.”

The PRI will need any additional support it can muster, having not won the Baja California governorship since the election of National Action Party (PAN) candidate Ernesto Ruffo Appel in 1989. Ruffo was the first opposition-party governor of any state since the Mexican Revolution.

Hank, 56, faces competition from several other local PRI politicians in the state election set for August 4, 2013, but he is by far the most high-profile candidate in the race. The owner of lucrative gambling syndicate Grupo Caliente and the father of 19 children, he has a colorful past to put it lightly.

He was born into a political dynasty, the son of Carlos Hank Gonzalez, a self-made billionaire who served as mayor of Mexico City, and secretary of agriculture and then tourism under President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

As a young man, Hank showed little interest in politics, using his father’s money to set up Tijuana’s Agua Caliente racetrack complex and a private zoo that now houses some 20,000 animals (his love of exotic beasts gave rise to many colorful myths, such as his supposed penchant for bull’s penis and tiger’s testicles soaked in tequila).

In 1991 he was detained in San Diego for transporting a white Siberian tiger – a species in danger of extinction – and four years later he was stopped at Mexico City airport in possession of ivory and endangered animal hides, but subsequently acquitted.

Hank first gained notoriety in 1988, when two of his bodyguards were arrested and convicted of the murder of Hector Felix Miranda, co-founder of Zeta, a Tijuana daily that boldly probed the drug trade.

Hank did not face charges, but rumors of his involvement never abated and Zeta ran a full-page spread each week for many years, asking him the same question: “Why did your bodyguards kill Hector Felix?”

Hank first sought the Baja California governorship toward the end of his tenure as Tijuana Mayor from 2004 to 2007, but his bid was undermined by legal action from local PAN politicians and he ended up losing to PAN candidate Jose Osuna by almost 55,000 votes.

Hank most recently made headlines in June 2011, when he was charged with illegal possession of firearms after Mexican military personnel raided his luxury compound, discovering 88 mostly unlicensed weapons (49 of which were high-caliber rifles and handguns designated for the sole use of the Mexican military) and over 9,000 rounds of ammunition.

Hank’s accomplished lawyers had him released, citing an apparent “lack of evidence,” and a federal judge later dismissed the charges, but he was detained again the same day in connection with two murders allegedly committed with guns found at his mansion.

Once again, Hank’s lawyers secured his release within hours, arguing the raid was unconstitutional and had been carried out without the prerequisite legal paperwork. The case did little to dispel rumors of Hank’s involvement with organized crime.

For a full preview of Tijuana vs. Toluca, see my piece at

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2012 02:04

    His nephew was the one that was arrested at the border crossing with the cub. And it was bringing it back from the US to Tijuana.

    Also something key to note is that a central part of the acquittal were the highly inconsistent accounts by the raiding soldiers. Also it’s extremely interesting that to get the warrant would have taken no more than an hour. If you read the highlights of the ruling, you can see how flimsy the case was.


  1. Pep Guardiola used to play in Mexico’s drug capital | The Tequila Files

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: