Covering Mexico
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The LA Times reports on the campaign for governor of the northern half of Baja California by former Tijuana mayor Jorge Hank Rhon (whom I wrote about a month ago in

He offers reporters drinks of his favorite tequila, custom-brewed by a Chinese-Mexican restaurateur and fermented with rattlesnake hides and penises of lions and tigers, which the father of 19 swears makes him virile.

On a recent swing through the Valle de Mexicali, Hank took the wheel of a van carrying 14 volunteers and screeched around tight turns, ran stop signs and blew through red lights. In the rush to keep up, one volunteer almost slammed the door on a woman trying to give Hank a letter.

Hank, 51, is PRI royalty, the son of Carlos Hank Gonzalez, an early party stalwart and former governor of the state of Mexico and Mexico City mayor who amassed a billion-dollar fortune and, according to legend, coined the phrase, "A politician who is poor is a poor politician."

The younger Hank moved to Tijuana in 1985 to run the historic Agua Caliente track, which features dog races. The enormous grandstand is the showcase property in an empire that includes shopping centers, hotels and off-track betting parlors.

Hank, who inherited half his father's wealth, estimates his worth has doubled to $1 billion in the last three years.

To many, he appears to spend every penny of it.

This year he flew in superstar singers Julio Iglesias and Luis Miguel to entertain at personal parties. He owns about 30 cars and a house in Vail, Colo. Three times a year, he throws open the doors at the racetrack for gift-giving extravaganzas. On Mother's Day, thousands of women cart home stoves, refrigerators and other appliances.

Behind his home he keeps an enormous private zoo. It has bears and lions, kangaroos and ostriches, and three rare white tigers. The zoo, which has 20,000 animals, isn't that impressive, Hank says. "Any sultan or guy in Africa has a zoo," he once said. ...In a comic book distributed to children at events, Hank is depicted as a caped superhero, Hombre H., a fearless crime fighter and protector of the poor.[Ex-Tijuana mayor forges link to poor Jorge Hank Rhon is closing the gap in the race for governor of Baja California state. By Richard Marosi, August 5, 2007 ]

Fun stuff.

So, it's not true that the American media doesn't cover Mexico, but what's lacking is any kind of resonance in the NY-DC media echo chamber. This kind of south-of-the-border color gets dutifully reported upon, but that's as far as it goes in the press.

For example, while Jorge Hank Rhon is the out-of-control Sonny-Fredo member of the Hank family, his brother Carlos Hank Rhon is more the Michael Corleone-type, who has had ties to lots of big timers in American politics, including the President of the United States. But who cares about boring stuff like that?

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