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Mexico: Kidnapping Case Affects Diplomatic Relations with France

Mexico and France have had growing problems in their diplomatic relations due to the kidnapping conviction of a French national in Mexico City. Her name is Florence Cassez, and she was arrested in 2006, accused of kidnapping charges and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón and French President Nicolas Sarkozy at G-20 dinner on June 26, 2010. Image by flickr user Gobierno Federal, used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license

Cassez's boyfriend was a leader of a gang called “Los Zodiacos” (meaning the zodiacs), and in several testimonies the kidnapped recognized her as part of the gang.

In 2009, French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Mexico and asked for Cassez's release during his time in the country. Cassez could have been sent to France but Mexican authorities refused to let her go, pressured by “anti-kidnapping” national organizations. Their argument was based on their distrust that French authorities would alter her sentence in her home country. The blog AguaChile describes the pressure the Mexican government faced from these organizations:

In Mexico, notably, prominent anti-kidnapping NGOs such as Isabel Miranda de Wallace”s Alto al Secuestro, Alejandro Martí's México SOS and María Elena Morera's Causa en Común, are convinced of Cassez’ culpability and call on the French President, the mercurial Nicolas Sarkozy, to stay out of the case.

This year, “The Year of Mexico in France” is to be celebrated with a sequence of more than 350 cultural and trade events programmed throughout 2011. France initially said it would move forward with the events and use them, in part, to draw attention to Cassez’s plight. Mexican authorities have announced they will not support the “Year of Mexico” proceedings and will not transfer Cassez.

On Twitter, citizens from all over the world have raised their voices. Juliamanda Garza (@juliagarza) sends a message to French newspapers:

Monsieur #Sarkozy: Ne “#Cassez” pas la rélation Franco-Mexicaine! cc: @lemondefr @Le_Figaro

Mr #Sakozy: Do not break the French-Mexican relationship! cc:@lemondefr @Le_Figaro

User enrique-ana (@Desmorningchouu) tweeted that Sarkozy's decision was based on popularity:

Francia – Mexico Cassez objeto d discordia, ocacionado p politicos franceses q no encuentran como subir popularidad en elecciones proximas

France – Mexico Cassez fight caused by French politicians that do not know how to raise their popularity in upcoming elections

Santo García (@Santo_) makes a joke out of the situation:

@Sarkozy te cambio una Cassez por una Bruni?? jalas o te pandeas??

@Sarkozy I will exchange Cassez for Bruni? Are you in or not?

Ximena Vega expresses an optimist point of view in the blog Vivir Mexico [es], writing about the lessons Mexican society should learn from the situation:

Me parece que una gran lección que México debe aprender de todo esto, además de que Sarkozy haría cualquier cosa por aumentar su nivel de popularidad de ese vergonzoso 38%, es que se deben vigilar los procesos de preservación de la escena del crimen y toma de declaraciones. Una policía federal y estatal mejor capacitada y más profesional puede ser la gran diferencia entre un juicio exitoso y, bueno, una crisis diplomática o un secuestrador en libertad.

I think that a great lesson Mexico should learn from all this, besides that Sarkozy would do anything to increase his popularity from that shameful 38%, is that crime scenes should be monitored, as well as declarations and statements. A federal and state police that are better trained, and are more professional, can make a big difference between a successful prosecution and, well, a diplomatic crisis or a released kidnapper.

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