World News

Kidnapped Mexican politician freed after 7 months

MEXICO CITY, Dec 20 - Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, a prominent former Mexican presidential candidate, has been released seven months after being kidnapped by an unknown group.

Fernandez, a member of President Felipe Calderon’s National Action Party, spoke to waiting media in front of his house in Mexico City on Monday.

“I am fine, thank God,” said the former PAN senator, sporting a beard that turned completely white during his captivity. “I am strong and my life will continue being the same.”

Cigar-chomping Fernandez was abducted in central Mexico in May as he arrived at his ranch late at night. His car was found with some of his belongings inside and blood on a pair of scissors thrown on the ground nearby.

In the following months, his captors released photos to selected media of a blindfolded, bearded man who greatly resembled Fernandez in an apparent move to pressure the politician’s family to pay for his release.

Authorities said there is no indication Fernandez’ captors had links to drugs or previous abductions for ransom.

In an impromptu news conference in the driveway of one of his residences in Mexico City, Fernandez said he pardoned his captors but that the authorities should seek them out.

“As a man of faith, of course, I forgive them. As a citizen, I think the authorities have some urgent work to do,” said Fernandez, wearing a gray track suit and with his previously gray and white, well-trimmed beard now completely white and unkempt.

Calderon congratulated Fernandez on his release, while prosecutors said they would resume an investigation halted, at the family’s request, days after the kidnapping.

Fernandez, known for his outspoken personality, is often called “Jefe Diego” (Boss Diego). He was a key figure in strengthening the PAN in the run-up to it winning the presidency in 2000 and ending seven decades of one-party rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party.

In recent weeks, local media had reported conflicting reports in Fernandez’ health and whereabouts, which intensified speculation about his condition. When he appeared publicly on Monday afternoon he gave no details of his capture, treatment or when he had been freed.

Kidnapping of executives, public officials and ordinary citizens for ransom is rife in Mexico, often ending in the deaths of victims.

Fernandez has close ties to key government figures such as Attorney General Arturo Chavez but does not hold any public office.