Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Monday, 17 May 2010 11:12 UK

Search for missing Mexican politician intensified

Diego Fernandez de Cevallos (file)
Mr Fernandez de Cevallos' disappearance remains a mystery

Police in Mexico say they have intensified their search for an influential politician who went missing under mysterious circumstances.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has ordered a major search for Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, whose car was found near his ranch on Friday.

Prosecutors said they had found "signs of violence" in the vehicle.

There has been some speculation the former presidential candidate may have been kidnapped.

But prosecutors said neither the family nor the police had been contacted by anyone making ransom demands or with any information as to the politician's whereabouts.

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The search for Mr Fernandez de Cevallos has been widened from the central state of Queretaro, where his all-terrain Hummer was found, to the whole country.

Police said they would again question his relatives and employees at the ranch, as well as the people believed to have seen him last.

Soldiers are combing rural areas surrounding the ranch for any trace of evidence. Police searched local hospitals in case he had been taken there unconscious or under a false name.

The mysterious disappearance of Mr Fernandez de Cevallos comes a week after gunmen killed a mayoral candidate in Valle Hermoso near the Texan border.

As violence continues between the security forces and the country's powerful drug cartels, many fear he may have been kidnapped or killed.

Mr Fernandez de Cevallos continues to be an influential figure in Mexico.

He served as a senator and congressman while also pursuing a successful career as a lawyer, winning some of the country's biggest court judgments, often in suits against government agencies.

In 1994, he ran for the presidency for the governing National Action party, losing out to Ernesto Zedillo of the PRI.

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