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— Perhaps a better indication as to how things are heating up here is reflected in an internal report issued by the National Drug intelligence Center in Washington, D.C. as reported last week in el Financiero (a Mexico City�based newspaper) and the Washington Post, the report links agua Caliente track owner Jorge Hank Rhon, his brother, and their nationally prominent father, Carlos Hank Gonzalez, with drug-trafficking and money laundering. Carlos Hank is a former Mexican agriculture minister and billionaire mayor of Mexico City. The report, which Washington D.C. sources say was commissioned by federal authorities here in San Diego, has caused a mighty ripple, from San Diego to Washington to Mexico City. in perhaps its most significant phrase, it characterizes the Hank family, whose influence reaches the Mexican presidency, "a significant criminal threat to the United States."

"Several years of investigative information strongly support the conclusion," the papers quote the document as saying, "that the Hank family has laundered money on a massive scale, assisted drug-trafficking organizations in transporting drug shipments, and engaged in large-scale public corruption." a Hank family representative in San Diego denies the accusations. "This is the same politically motivated misinformation that seems to be disseminated [every] election year," says Richard Stern, Jorge Hank Rhon's San Diego attorney, referring to the upcoming senatorial and presidential elections in Mexico and the U.S. "The family has indicated the allegations are totally untrue. The Washington Post is...quoting some unpublished report and unnamed sources. if you want me to respond, show us the report. el Financiero talked about wire-taps. Let us hear the conversation! Show me some of the evidence." But gathering evidence in Tijuana and Baja these days can be a hazardous business. every week, Zeta magazine publisher Jes�s Blancornelas, who himself was lucky to survive a November 1997 assassination attempt by arellano Felix organization gunmen, continues to print a full-page advertisement asking Jorge Hank Rhon about the murder of Zeta's star columnist and co-owner, Hector "el Gato" Felix Miranda in 1988. Felix was killed by Hank's guards at agua Caliente after he had written some particularly strong columns taking aim at Hank. and the trouble is not just in Tijuana. Last week, Mexican journalists organized two "journalistic tours" to show solidarity with cartel-threatened editors and newspaper reporters along the border. The trips focused on the dusty town of San Luis Rio Colorado, 40 miles west of Mexicali, 30 miles south of Yuma, and now a busy drug crossing-point. Two years ago gunmen cut down Benjamin Flores Gonzalez, a 29-year-old editor of the newspaper La Prensa ("The Press"). He had been criticizing law authorities over their alleged "light hand" with Jaime Gonzalez Gutierrez, who was set free despite having been accused of killing a local cop and trafficking in marijuana. Last week's "tour" was framed to give moral support to Sergio Haro, editor of San Luis Rio Colorado's Siete Dias ("Seven Days"), and Jes�s Barraza, editor of Pulso ("Pulse"). in recent months, both have received death threats for their coverage of alleged drug figures. in Mexico City last week the inter american Press association met with Mexican president ernesto Zedillo, urging him to press his law enforcement authorities to "do something" about the murders of 20 Mexican journalists over the past decade.

For those searching for clues into the murders of victims like ernesto Dominguez, Tilda Phipps, David Stevens, or even Tsunao Saitoh and his daughter Loullie, perhaps authorities need to look harder at the cross-border picture for clues. Not to "blame Mexico," but to embrace the real dynamics of a narcotics trade that threatens to engulf both societies. n

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