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Mexico manhunt for missing politician Diego Fernandez de Cevallos

Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, a top member of Mexico's ruling party, was declared missing over the weekend after authorities found his car with 'signs of violence.' It comes as drug cartels are increasingly targeting top leaders.

By Staff writer / May 16, 2010

The ranch of politician Diego Fernandez de Cevallos in Pedro Escobedo in Mexico's state of Queretero on Saturday. Fernandez de Cevallos, a major figure in Mexican President Felipe Calderon's conservative party, was missing on Saturday after his abandoned car was found late on Friday near his ranch.

Daniel Aguilar/Reuters

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Mexico City

A former presidential candidate in Mexico and prominent member of President Felipe Calderón’s National Action Party (PAN) was declared missing over the weekend, which could be the latest escalation of violence by drug traffickers here.

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The car of Diego Fernandez de Cevallos was found near his ranch in the state of Queretaro, Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office confirmed Saturday. Authorities say they found his belongings in the car and “signs of violence.”

It was not immediately clear if he was the victim of kidnapping and whether his disappearance was at the hands of drug traffickers, but it comes amid increasing attacks on political leaders throughout the country.

Last week, gunmen killed the PAN candidate for the mayoral race in Valle Hermoso, a town near Brownsville, Texas.

Politicians targeted

Politicians have voiced concerns about intimidation in other parts of the country, especially as 10 states gear up for races this July.

The influence of organized crime on politics has been an increasing problem here.

Reginaldo Sandoval, the president of the Labor Party in the troubled state of Michoacán, told the Monitor in November that traffickers regularly corrupt and intimidate politicians, forcing some to drop out of races altogether.

'Cowardly' attacks

After the Valle Hermoso killing last week, President Calderón issued a statement declaring the attacks “cowardly” and underlined his commitment to fighting organized crime.

Calderón, in a statement Saturday, said that his administration “from the first hours of the morning, has been in constant communication with the attorney general and with the secretaries of Interior and Public Security. He said he had “communicated with one of the two children of Fernandez de Cevallos, who is facing this difficult situation with integrity, to offer his solidarity and the necessary backing to successfully locate Fernandez de Cevallos.”

Calderón, who briefly delayed a trip to Madrid to attend a European Union summit, called Mr. Fernandez de Cevallos “a key politician in the Mexican democratic transition.”

Fernandez de Cevallos ran for president in 1994 for the PAN, but lost to the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled the country for 71 years. It would be PRI's last term in office. The PAN won the race in 2000.

Calderón has been a popular president, but the fallout from the battle against organized crime that he launched in late 2006 with the help of the military is wearing on the nation.

Nearly 23,000 people have been killed in drug trafficking violence since Calderón took office.

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