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Mexican Politician Fernandez Was Freed, Gonzalez Says

Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, the Mexican ruling party politician who was kidnapped seven months ago, was freed, said a senator from Fernandez’s party.

Senator Felipe Gonzalez, a member of President Felipe Calderon’s National Action Party, said in a telephone interview that “people close to Diego” confirmed his release.

“We’re very happy that he’s been freed, that he’s alive,” Gonzalez said. “There was a lot of concern. We didn’t know if he had been assassinated.”

Fernandez de Cevallos is a former senator and a former presidential candidate. He went missing on May 14 from his ranch in the central state of Queretaro. His family said May 22 that they had asked authorities to step back from efforts to resolve the case as they would negotiate his return.

Televisa journalist Joaquin Lopez-Doriga broke the news of Fernandez’s release today, saying he spoke with Fernandez by telephone.

“Diego is at home, he’s healthy, he’s safe and most important, he’s free,” Lopez-Doriga said in a report broadcast by the TV station. “He confirmed his freedom to me.”

Calderon’s and the attorney general’s press offices declined to comment on the matter. The press office at Fernandez’s party, known as PAN, said it couldn’t confirm the release.

Antonio Lozano, a lawyer representing Fernandez’s family, wasn’t immediately reachable when Bloomberg News called for comment today.

‘Plays Tough’

While several senior law enforcement officials, mayors and a gubernatorial candidate have been killed since Calderon took power in 2006, no politician with the status of Fernandez has been a victim of violence at the hands of organized crime in recent years.

Fernandez ran for the presidency in 1994 as a member of the National Action Party and lost to Ernesto Zedillo of the Revolutionary Institutional Party.

The bearded, cigar-smoking Fernandez was criticized by members of the opposition and his own party during his term as a senator from 2000 to 2006 for simultaneously working as a private lawyer and helping clients win large sums of money in lawsuits against the government.

In 2004, Fernandez successfully represented Sergio Estrada Cajigal, who was then governor of Morelos state, when opposition politicians tried to remove him from office after state security officials were arrested for allegedly trafficking drugs.

“Diego is rich and he plays tough,” political analyst Denise Dresser wrote in a column in the newspaper Reforma in 2003. “Whatever the law does not prohibit, Diego does with enthusiasm and for profit.”

Rising Violence

Fernandez, who has three sons and one daughter, grew up in the state of Queretaro, attended high school in Guadalajara and obtained a law degree from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 1964.

He worked as a litigant in penal, civil and agrarian law and as a professor of law before losing the 1994 presidential election. He was also a lawmaker in the lower house between 1991 and 1994.

Fernandez’s kidnapping came amid this year’s increase in drug-related violence in Mexico.

Attorney General Arturo Chavez said last week that 30,196 people have been killed in drug-related violence nationwide since Calderon took office four years ago and began deploying troops in a battle against cartels.

This year’s toll of 12,456 drug-related deaths is the highest since Calderon took office, showing that violence is increasing instead of waning.

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