Today we won’t be reading about the serious issues that Mexico faces because Florence Cassez has once again grabbed the spotlight in all the local news sources.
The 36 year old French citizen was arrested in 2005 for kidnapping. However, the Mexican authorities were soon forced to admit that her detainment was botched from the start.
Someone (with major clout) determined that both television ratings and the Mexican authorities’ stature would soar if her capture could be shown on prime-time. And indeed, Ms. Cassez’ arrest appeared “live” on the screen. But the fact is, she had been arrested the previous day. What the public saw was a reenactment. Yes, she was actually returned to the “rancho” and re-arrested for the cameras.
Ms. Cassez has always claimed her innocence, saying that she was unaware that there were kidnap victims tied up in rooms close to where she was staying with her Mexican boyfriend. This declaration drew as much scorn as the staged raid because three of the victims positively identified the French woman as part of the gang that held them captive. At the controversial trial, Florence was found guilty and sentenced to a 60-year prison term.
From her cell, poor Florence screamed her innocence to the four winds and her lawyers had plenty of grounds for a re-trial, based on the illegality of her arraignment. Technically, they were absolutely right but it also seemed crystal clear that their client had been a key player in the crime.
Now after a seven year diplomatic kerfuffle, Florence Cassez has been released. She made a b-line for the airport and is now with her family in la belle France.
Have her Mexican cohorts been released? Of course not. Diplomatic pressure from France opened the lock and chains to Florence’s cell but the French civil libertarians cared not one franc for her former comrades. This case is a perfect example of how Mexicans are not afforded the same rights as other nationals – neither abroad nor in their own country.
Before his death, Mexican Nobel prize winner Carlos Fuentes said that if Mexico bowed to the pressure from France and the French woman was released it would be a travesty of justice. Mr. Fuentes must be turning in his grave over what happened yesterday.
The Florence Cassez case serves as a lesson to all branches of Mexican law enforcement: procedure must be followed and civil rights upheld. Their failure to do so seven years ago is the reason that a convicted criminal has been released on a technicality. She will probably go on to write a best-selling book and the time she spent incarcerated in Mexico will pay her way for the rest of her life.
I wonder what the kidnap victims and their families think of this.