The former mayor's release leaves the Mexican government of Felipe Calderón, and by extension his political party, the National Action Party (Partido de Accion Nacional – PAN), with a huge credibility problem as it tries to convince Mexicans that the battle it began against organized crime when Mr. Calderón took power in 2006 is bearing fruit.
While the government has killed and imprisoned numerous top Mexican criminals, what most Mexicans see is violence – nearly 40,000 dead since Calderón entered office – and a government that is ill-prepared to take on the country's dark political powerbrokers such as Hank Rhon.
Hank Rhon's family made its money the old fashioned way: via connections with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional - PRI). His father, Carlos Hank Gonzalez, was famous for saying, "A politician who is poor is a poor politician."
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.
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).