Tuesday, June 21, 2011
The eccentric former mayor of Tijuana said Monday that he had no hard feelings for the Mexican officials who launched a pre-dawn raid on his home and imprisoned him for 10 days on charges that were eventually dismissed.
Jorge Hank Rhon was jovial and relaxed in his first public comments since he was released for lack of evidence, entertaining reporters' questions for an hour in the lobby of his flagship casino before shaking hands with supporters and driving off behind the wheel of his Maybach sedan.
"I think one who gets angry loses, so I don't get angry," said Hank Rhon, a gambling magnate from a politically powerful family. "What happened is in the past."
The administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon has faced withering criticism since the army's June 4 raid on Hank Rhon's sprawling complex in central Tijuana, which includes a casino, soccer stadium, greyhound racetrack, large private zoo and his home.
Hank Rhon, 55, was released from custody twice in one day last week, first on weapons charges and then on suspicion of masterminding the murder of his son's former girlfriend. Skeptics said the raid was a strike against his Institutional Revolutionary Party ahead of next year's presidential election.
Hank Rhon denied the raid was a political ploy but refused to try to explain the government's actions.
"I'm very practical. When I have a stomach ache, I cure it. I don't walk around thinking about what I ate or why my stomach hurts," he said. "Fortunately, I have my freedom again."
Hank Rhon confirmed that the U.S. State Department revoked his visa but said he didn't know why.
"I didn't ask a lot of questions," he said.
U.S. authorities have long suspected Hank Rhon of links to laundering illegal drug proceeds, but no accusations have been documented.
Hank Rhon was unemotional when asked to recall his feelings when soldiers stormed his bedroom after a long night of entertaining guests. He said he felt embarrassed wearing shorts and that his first thought was to grab a pair of pants.
"I'm not like Adonnis," he said, wearing an open-collar suit and seated next to a person in a Xoloitzcuintles costume, the Mexican hairless dogs for which his soccer team is named.
When asked how the episode changed him, he deadpanned that he lost more than 17 pounds in captivity but has gained nearly half of that back since his release.
Hank Rhon, the father of 19 children with various women, was Tijuana's mayor from 2004 to 2007 after amassing a fortune from his Caliente gambling empire. He has fed his reputation of eccentricity by boasting of getting energy from drinking a tequila laced with bear bile, scorpions, and rattlesnakes and steeped with the penises of tigers, lions and dogs.
He said Monday that he would stay in politics and did nothing to quell speculation that he would run for governor of Baja California state 2013 after a failed bid in 2007.
"I don't know any politician who doesn't want to govern his state," he said.
Asked by another reporter about the governor's race, he said, "I like more the suggestion of the woman who was kind enough to say she wants me to be president of the world."