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By David Gaddis Smith
Well over 2,000 people, many of them bused in, attended a rally in Tijuana on Tuesday seeking the release of former Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon. Many wore T-shirts that said "Todos Somos Hank" — "We are all Hank." Others wore jerseys of the Xolos soccer team sponsored by Hank's Grupo Caliente, or campaign garb from Hank's unsuccessful run for governor in 2007. Hank, a gambling magnate who has been positioning himself to run for governor in 2013, was arrested early Saturday at his home after a raid found 49 weapons that are only supposed to be in the possession of the Mexican military. He arrived at the El Hongo prison early Wednesday after having been flown back to Tijuana from Mexico City by authorities. Frontera reported that a sentence for such a violation could range from one to 30 years in addition to fines. The Union-Tribune reported that the minimum sentence, however, would be three months.
Many at the rally thought Hank, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, had been set up and was the victim of political persecution by President Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party. Authorities, however, said his compound was only raided after receiving a tip and that politics were not involved. One large sign on a trailer carrying nine women and a man to the rally said, "Stop human rights violations and the abuse of authority." Stickers saying "I support Jorge Hank" were handed out; two women walking together even had stuck them on the rear end of their jeans. A sign held on the base of the statue of Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza, the hero of the May 5, 1862 battle of Puebla, said: "Felipe Calderon: Hank Innocent. Liberty!" Another sign held by a man on top of the statue said, "The anonymous call came from Los Pinos" (the Mexican White House). Many of those in attendance wore red, which in recent years has come to represent the PRI. Large numbers of Alba Roja and Sintoled union members came. At least two pregnant women, one due in three weeks and the other in a month, attended.
Before the rally began at 4:30 p.m., at least 51 buses had arrived carrying protesters. Others arrived in collective taxis and vans that carry passengers across the city. Buses from Tecate arrived after the rally began, and five buses came from Ensenada. The rally began at the Abraham Lincoln statue on Paseo de los Heroes and ended at the Zaragoza statue, half a block away from the federal Attorney General's Office in Tijuana.
In left photo, Carolina Rique (center) of San Diego attended the rally along with workers who arrived by bus from a Tijuana gas company. In right photo, Margarita Mota Espinoza (right) and her daughters América (left) and Esmeralda (center) came by bus to attend the rally.
In below photos, Rainier Falcon of the Sintoled union, wearing a vest with the logo of Hank's 2007 campaign, was the master of ceremonies for the event. At right, the Zaragoza traffic circle was littered with trash after the event.