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The World

Tijuana tycoon barred from campaigning

June 21, 2007|Richard Marosi | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — A Baja California electoral tribunal dealt a severe blow to the gubernatorial bid of Tijuana gambling tycoon Jorge Hank Rhon on Wednesday, annulling his candidacy seven weeks before the Mexican state's August election.

Hank, the former mayor of Tijuana, was declared ineligible because a state law prohibits elected officials from running for office before completing their terms.

Hank, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, was elected to a three-year term as mayor of Tijuana in 2004 and stepped down in February, about nine months short of a full term, to run for governor.

The ruling is expected to be appealed to a federal tribunal in Mexico City, but Hank is barred from campaigning until the court issues its decision, which could take as long as five weeks, a tribunal representative said.

Hank oversees a vast business empire that includes off-track betting parlors, hotels and shopping centers. During his sometimes tumultuous tenure as mayor of the city of 1.5 million people, he promised to make the city as clean and livable as San Diego.

But Tijuana has been hit by a wave of kidnappings and drug-related slayings, and federal law enforcement officials criticized Hank for not ousting corrupt municipal police officers.

Hank has touted his street-paving projects, and has been credited by some for boosting police salaries and providing officers with more cars and equipment. He also unveiled an extensive surveillance system that public safety officials say has cut down on crime in tourist and shopping areas.

Hank is running against Jose Guadalupe Osuna Millan, the candidate for the National Action Party, or PAN, which has controlled the governor's office for more than a decade and holds the presidency of Mexico.

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richard.marosi@latimes.com

Cecilia Sanchez of The Times' Mexico City Bureau contributed to this report.

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