Mexico's tough-talk mayor has gotten threats

AP News
Posted: Nov 10, 2009 11:32 PM

A Mexican mayor known for his tough anti-crime proposals and seeming advance knowledge of the death of a purported kidnapper said Tuesday that he has received threats and now has a security escort.

Mauricio Fernandez, mayor in the wealthy Monterrey suburb of San Pedro Garza Garcia, spent almost five hours with investigators Tuesday for questioning apparently related to his announcement during a speech that an alleged kidnapper had been killed. His comment Oct. 31 came hours before the body was found, hundreds of miles away in Mexico City.

Fernandez said he had a "friendly and respectful" interview with the federal prosecutors, but would not say what he told them. He has said unspecified intelligence sources told him about the death.

The mayor also declined to describe the threats he has received. He told reporters only that "there are people who are making threats" and that he has a security escort, which local media reported as consisting of 10 plainclothes guards in four bulletproof pickup trucks.

"Up until recently, I didn't even have a driver. I always went around alone," Fernandez said.

Fernandez has told local media that he is setting up a special group to clean up crime in his city, and acknowledged that "in some form" the group might act outside the law.

San Pedro Garza Garcia, like many other cities in Mexico, has seen an uptick in violent crimes like kidnapping and drug gang activity.

Also Tuesday, in the border city of Tijuana, federal prosecutors said they arrested the chief bodyguard for the city's former mayor, Jorge Hank Rhon, on charges of illegal weapons possession.

The Attorney General's Office said Jorge Vera Ayala was taken to a local prison to appear before a judge. He is a bodyguard for Hank Rhon, who served as Tijuana's mayor from 2004 to 2007.

Vera Ayala was stopped by local police Oct. 19 in possession of guns that he say he was authorized to carry. However, prosecutors say he escaped when taken to their offices to clear up the matter.

Accusations of organized crime ties _ which have never been proven _ have dogged Rhon.

A bodyguard at a race track owned by Rhon was one of two men were convicted in the 1988 killing of journalist Hector Felix Miranda. Rhon has denied any connection to the crime.