23 May 2010

El "Jefe Diego" still missing; investigation suspended

The disappearance of Diego Fernández de Cevallos became all the more mysterious over the weekend as the children of the former presidential candidate asked federal and state officials to "stay on the sidelines."

The Attorney General's Office (PGR) and Public Security Secretariat (SSP) subsequently complied.

The request only fueled speculation about the fate of Fernández de Cevallos - a political and legal bigwig known as el "Jefe Diego" (Diego the Boss) - as theories of him falling victim to kidnapping or a political crime already had been discarded by various groups and individuals ranging from the family to a shadowy rebel group to the president himself.

The kidnapping theory could be surging again as the most plausible explanation - one of "Jefe Diego's" 12 brothers, Manuel Fernández de Cevallos Ramos, told the newspaper Reforma the family was expecting, "A good negotiation."

Family requests that the authorities stay on the sidelines are not infrequent in Mexican kidnapping cases. But, in the case of Fernández de Cevallos, it raises questions: He is the political patron of Attorney General Arturo Chávez Chávez and Interior Minister Fernando Gómez-Mont - two of the most senior members of President Felipe Calderón's so-called security cabinet. Chávez previously worked as a lawyer in Fernández de Cevallos' firm and only became attorney general last year, replacing Eduardo Medina Mora. Both he and Gómez-Mont are among the most prominent members of the so-called "Diego Faction" in the National Action Party. ("Jefe Diego," while reputedly pious and, without doubt, controversial - recall the "Highway of Love" built with public and private money to facilitate travelling to his girlfriend's hometown in the Los Altos region of Jalisco - is not part of the ultra-conservative "El Yunque" as some with unfavorable opinions of the PAN have stated.)

About the only acknowledged fact in the disappearance is that Fernández de Cevallos went missing late on the evening of May 14 from his ranch in the state of Querétaro. A photo of a bearded man wearing a blindfold - with a similar resemblance to Fernández de Cevallos - has circulated, but its authenticity cannot be verified.

Gómez-Mont, for one, expressed doubts.

"I think it's out of focus and regretable that this kind of photograph is published due to the delicate nature of the subject," he told reporters May 21.

He asked the media "to be prudent."

Coverage of the disappearance has diminished somewhat, although other sensational matters - most notably the Paulette fiasco in the State of Mexico - stole the headlines.

Media giant Televisa has announced it would stop covering the matter out of respect for the family and to "put the life of Fernández de Cevallos ahead of the practice of journalism. It wasn't an easy decision."

The stance drew a sharp response from one of Televisa's harshest critics, radio and television journalist Carmen Aristegui.

"Is self-censorship responsible journalism?" she wrote in her a May 21 Reforma column.

"If it weren't so serious - because the most powerful media outlet in the country threatens the right to information of millions of Mexicans - it would be ridiculous and hilarious, the self-censorship declaration of the national chain."

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