14 September 2010


A billboard in Guadalajara features local soccer star Javier "Chicharito" Hernández and the warning, "The future of a whole country, today is at your feet." The admonishment reflects the pressure on Hernández, who now plays for Manchester United.

Mexican soccer phenom Javier Hernández - better known by the handle, "Chicharito," or Little Pea - made his debut Sept. 14 in the Champions League as his club Manchester United took on Rangers. The debut, like everything he does with Manchester United, received major press attention back in Mexico, where the 22-year-old striker is fast becoming a living legend - especially in his native Guadalajara.

Chicharito faces enormous expections in Mexico, where international soccer success has been elusive and players have generally preferred to earn solid livings in a domistic league flush with cash from the nation's broadcasting duopoly instead of challenging themselves in tougher European leagues.

The lad appears ready. He comes from a solid, middle-class family, never indulges in vices such as smoking and drinking, according to his granddad, and never gets caught up in any scandals - unlike, say, aging striker and current Mexican soccer demigod Cuauhtémoc Blanco, who showed up for World Cup camp overweight and out of shape. He also speaks excellent English and was pursuing a university degree at UNIVA in suburban Guadalajara as he rocketed to soccer stardom last year with Chivas, the legendary Mexican franchise that doesn't field foreign-born players. His family has even moved to England with him.

I tracked down Chicharito's graddad - a former Mexican international and Chivas player - in late July, when Manchester United passed through Guadalajara, for story that ran in The Sun. Read it here, or click on the title.

13 September 2010

Yet another Jefe Diego letter surfaces

Yet another letter purportedly authored by the kidnappers of former presidential candidate Diego Fernández de Cevallos surfaced Sept. 13, more than three months after the political insider and legal bigwig better known as "Jefe Diego" disappeared from his ranch in the state of Querétaro.

A photo, showing a blindfolded Fernández de Cevallos holding a copy of the magazine Proceso with him and former president Carlos Salinas posing in a photo, also surfaced with the letter, which, in a mocking tone, alleges that Jefe Diego has been abandoned by his friends and family and leaves uncertain who exactly is responsible for his apprehension.

"Thanks to the personal and public trajectory of 'Jefe Diego' many things continue to be said and perhaps all the lines of investigation fit since his family has abandoned him and his own friends don't care about his fate," the letter read.

The letter was signed by the, “Misteriosos Desaparecedores,” made mention of various theories that Jefe Diego might have been grabbed by everyone ranging from narcos to rebels to "defrauded individuals." And its surfacing promised to deepen the mystery of his disappearance and foment even more conspiracies on how a figure closely linked to the most senior officials in the country's internal security apparatus could suddenly vanish without a trace and how investigators would so willingly remove themselves almost immediately from the case at the behest of his family.

It was no secret that the cigar chomping Fernández de Cevallos cut a controversial path through Mexican political and legal circles. He became notorious for his moonlighting as an attorney for some of the country's most powerful companies suing the federal government to win injunction in tax cases while he served as a National Action Party (PAN) senator.

He also clashed with President Felipe Calderón, who, in 2008, buried the hatchet with the Diego faction of the PAN by appointing a Fernández de Cevallos protegé, Fernando Gómez-Mont, as interior minister and later a former legal associate, Arturo Chávez Chávez, as attorney general. (Gómez-Mont left cabinet after objecting to the PAN-Democratic Revolution Party alliances formed in five states for the July 4 elections.)