14 July 2010

Where the heck is "El Jefe Diego"?

Former PAN presidential candidate and legal bigwig Diego Fernández de Cevallos - better known as "El Jefe Diego," or Diego the Boss - disappeared from his ranch in the state of Querétaro 60 days ago. His fate remains uncertain and the domain of much speculation - the most colourful of which involved the FARC supposedly having a hand in his disappearance.

El Universal columnist Katia D'Artigues sums up the current thinking on the case in a July 14 column. Among her points:

1. Diego was kidnapped by professions, who extracted a tracking chip from his body.

2. The kidnappers demanded $50 million, but negotiations are now in the $30 million range.

3. Foreigners are carrying out the negotiations as the Attorney General's Office (PGR) and state authorities withdrew from the case early on at the behest of Diego's family. The captors communicate with the family through messages left at churches and emails.

4. The EPR rebels - blamed for the 2007 bomb attacks on Pemex pipelines - has denied any involvement. "Security experts" say an EPR splinter group known as the Revolutionary Democratic Tendency (TDR) has emerged and might be involved.

In an El Universal column published July 13, Salvador García Soto raised the possibility of the kidnapping being motivated by revenge and linked to the drug trade.

"Revenge for a failed, multi-million (dollar) litigation by (Diego's) powerful law firm, Férnandez de Cevallos y Alba, S.A., that involves a group of businessmen linked to narcotics trafficking in Quintana Roo, is the version that is being given in Mexican and U.S. military intelligence circles to explain the kidnapping," García wrote.

Whatever the truth, what is known - and what is provoking the most disquiet in some cirlces - is the silence from the federal government and the willingness of law enforcement and judicial officials to withdraw from perhaps the most prominent kidnapping case of the past five years. Some legal experts also have questioned the constitutionality of such a move by the PGR.

Ironically, Diego - as I mentioned in a previous post - presides over a faction in the PAN that has placed two of his acolytes: Interior Minister Fernando Gómez-Mont and Attorney General Arturo Chávez, in two of the country's top cabinet positions and in positions responsible for security matters. Now the pair are on the sidelines as their political mentor is held captive by professionals demanding an enormous sum of money - or so we're told.

Expect the case to grow ever the more curious over the coming 60 days.

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