Here is an excerpt from Buggs' article on the Borderland Beat blog:
"A message signed by someone claiming to be a member of the Zapatista National Liberation Army, or EZLN, says that group was responsible for the kidnapping of Mexican former presidential candidate Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, who spent nearly eight months in captivity last year... The signer claims to be a subordinate of “Subcomandante Marcos,” leader of the long-quiescent EZLN guerrilla group, and states that Fernandez de Cevallos, the presidential candidate of the now-governing National Action Party, or PAN, in 1994, was “one of the main enemies of our project” to secure autonomy for indigenous peoples... The message says the government’s strategy for dealing with its opponents has forced the EZLN, which has mainly devoted itself to social and community activism since a brief uprising in January 1994, “to have to resort to constructive violence” and “take appropriate action in secret.” It said the Zapatista movement, which has a leftist, Indian-rights agenda, has its sights set on the “total destruction of the current Mexican political system” and will use the ransom paid for Fernandez de Cevallos’ release to that end... In a public appearance after his release on Dec. 11 of last year, Fernandez de Cevallos provided few details about his captors nor the manner in which they freed him, although he said the government had a “pending” task of bringing them to justice... In his comments after he was set free, Fernandez de Cevallos said both political and financial factors were involved in his kidnapping." Link to Full Article
Analysis: There are so many things wrong and right about this story that I'm having a hard time making heads or tails of it. My first instinct when Cevallos was kidnapped was so assume that one of the DTOs snatched him, and his family would be lucky to see him alive again. Then the news started trickling out that his family was engaging in negotiations with the kidnappers, and those negotiations started to stretch out into months, rather than weeks. This case started to look like something out of Colombia, run by professional narcoterrorist kidnappers, rather than greedy and sloppy cartel members or low-level thugs out to make a buck.
I have a feeling a lot of people were thrown for a loop when this story about a purported EZLN message claiming responsibility came out. For those of you who aren't familiar with the EZLN - more commonly known as the "Zapatistas" - they're an indigenous rights group in Mexico's southernmost state of Chiapas with a fiery political agenda. They made the news in 1994 with an armed uprising under the leadership of the masked Subcomandante Marcos, but in less than a year they renounced any sort of violent intentions and decided to pursue their political goals peacefully.
Since the mid-1990s, the EZLN has been pretty quiet, and no one has paid them much mind since the drug war violence started in earnest in 2006. So there are two questions we have to ask. First, if the EZLN did actually kidnap Cevallos, why now, and why would they renounce their pledge of non-violence? Second, if the EZLN is being framed, who's doing the framing, and how do they stand to benefit from it?
Going with the first scenario, I'm trying to think why the EZLN would start to make a big stink at this particular moment. Perhaps they're looking for attention in the midst of a time when indigenous rights groups are being drowned out by the drug war. Maybe they felt that kidnapping a high-profile politician like Jefe Diego was the only way their voices would be heard above the fray. Certainly, the $30 million ransom paid for Cevallos' release will fund the EZLN's ambitions for quite some time. However, the EZLN had been respected as a legitimate organization by the Mexican government for several years. The governor of Chiapas is vehemently denying the EZLN had anything to do with his disappearance. Why would they do something like this to screw that up?
Let's go with the second scenario for a moment. Who would stand to benefit in Mexico right now by making the EZLN look bad? The DTOs aren't in any sort of direct competition with the EZLN. Maybe one of the smaller cartels thought it might draw attention and resources away from them and towards the EZLN in Chiapas. Maybe it's a personal/vengeance attack between someone in another group and the EZLN leadership.
Either way, it's unusual for a claim of responsibility - or ransom negotiations, for that matter - to take so long when a DTO is involved. This is more reminiscent of something the FARC or ELN in Colombia would do, especially considering Cevallos seemed to be in decent physical shape when released, and the Colombian guerrilla/terrorist groups tend to value their hostages more than Mexican kidnappers do. My curiosity is further piqued by Cevallos' statement that his kidnapping was motivated by both political and financial reasons. DTOs don't have any direct political aspirations; they just want to manipulate and control the people in office through extortion and death threats. I don't know that holding Cevallos hostage for 11 months would accomplish a goal for one of the DTOs that something less labor- and time-intensive wouldn't have.
Unfortunately, the only person who can shed any light on this mystery is Cevallos, and he's not making any statements. I imagine this is likely one of the conditions of his release, lest he or one of his family members get kidnapped - or worse. Considering the chances of the Mexican authorities actually finding the people responsible are slim at best, we may never know who was at the bottom of this, or be able to truly assess what it means for the Mexican political and drug war landscape.