Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mexico + France: Frenemies?

An International matter has come to my attention recently, it involves two countries I love: France and, of course, Mexico. As you may have heard -as it is all over the news in both places-, these two nations that have had an excellent relationship for so long, are now in not very good terms. with each other. Personally, this kind of upsets me because, for one, well Mexico is my Home Country, and France, well, you know how much I love it and I don't think breaking the relations with each other will be good for either one, and I also don't think the people of both nations even agree with this situation.

It all goes back to 2005, when French National Florence Cassez was arrested along with a few Mexicans for the crime of kidnapping. She is the girlfriend of the Kidnappers Band Leader, a Mexican National. The detention of Cassez, her boyfriend, Israel Vallarta, and the rest of the band is believed to be somewhat "fishy", as they showed it on TV but later on they said it wasn't the real one, which is quite odd because, if you come to think about it, why would the police re-create an arrest just to show it to the media? Well, there's actually a reason for that, which I will mention later on. That is fishy alright, however, that doesn't mean these criminals are to be found not guilty as there are various witnesses who assure having being under her and her band-mates' watch while they held them against her will, which is better -and, in Mexico, very well- known as kidnap. So, Cassez -as well as her band-mates- were arrested and went to court, where a judge gave her a sentence of 60 years! Which, if I understand correctly, is something that would never happen in France, which is a country just as Democratic as Mexico; maybe it wouldn't happen because it doesn't make sense, but in Mexico things are a bit different and I am not saying a 60-year sentence makes sense, not at all, that's just the way it is here. And, when you hear the Mexican Serial Killer known as "La Mataviejitas" (known as such because she used to kill only old ladies) was convicted for 300+ years...well, 60 suddenly don't sound that bad.

Sarcozy + Calderón

The thing with the re-enactment of facts regarding Cassez's -and accomplices- detention was not the right thing to do, but, that is something that is very important for people in Mexico, where perceptions are quite important. This is, whenever something like that happens, the Police/Governments/Authorities have the need to show the people they ARE doing something, which is their job and they shouldn't have to rub it on our noses or claim it our loud but, unfortunately, that's the way it has to happen due to the huge lack of trust Mexican people have in them. Therefore, in this particular case, they felt the uncontrollable need to show everyone not only that they were doing their job, but they were doing it even if it involved a foreigner -who Mexicans tend to exalt for some reason-; again, I am not justifying these acts, I'm just trying to give you all an insight of why things happen a certain way in Mexico.

Cassez during the arrest

Now, the legal system in Mexico is quite outdated and needs an urgent update as many laws don't make sense or apply properly to the current situation of the country, that I know and I'm sure many, many people are aware of that too. However, that does not mean the President of France -or any other country for that matter- can come and tell us "our justice is not justice" or request the extradition of a fellow national of him just because "he doesn't believe in our legal system" and he thinks he can do things for her "right" or "better" than us, and he definitely can't expect the President of Mexico to just sit, listen, nod and send her back to France, that's not how things work. He needs to respect Mexico's legal system, even if it's all fucked up, because whether he likes it or not, Cassez commited a crime and she did it in Mexico and not in France.

2011 was supposed to be the year where "The Year of Mexico in France" was to be held in the latter country, actually, some of the events related to this started happening a couple of weeks ago, up until Sarcozy said he wanted to dedicate the event to Cassez, which makes no sense at all -why would they wanna dedicate a cultural/touristic/educational/artistic/etc event to a criminal?-, then they started sabotaging some of the events to the point where Mexico had to take a stand and it was decided to cancel the whole thing, saying that "the conditions for the event were not optimum", nor the ones previously agreed, of course.

The media on Mexico's response to France

I went around and asked some of my French friends their opinion on the situation and this is where they stand:

"In France, a lot of people think she is not guilty. First of all, because of the conditions of her arrest, as the police finally said that the arrest on TV was not the real one... And in France, this kind of situation would have mean that she could not be judged because the arrest was not legal. Furthermore, in France, nobody can be convicted for 60 years.

And of course... she is french, and there is a nationalist reflex allowing us to consider that she must be innocent!
I find It a bit strange to be arrested like that, but I find It stranger to be with a criminal without knowing that he is a criminal ! So I think maybe she is not responsible for all the crimes of her boyfriend, but she is responsible for a part of us. And furthermore: when someone is found guilty in another democratic country, nobody has the right to say to this country that his justice is not a real justice... And finally... I can't see any relation between this story and the Mexican Year in France... " - Rémi B.

Florence Cassez + Boyfriend, Israel Vallarta

"Sarkozy is trying to get popularity by saving people from jails all over the world instead of making good policy. His popularity is worst than it has ever been he'd like to fool french people with something simple as Florence Cassez with no respect for the mexican law or court. You used to have the united states taking your country for a little child now you have France. I am quite embarrassed about politics in my country ..." - Christophe C.

Of course we are worried about the situation and it's very shocking. Our President always acts like a "Super President", he cares so much about his image on the media...I believe he made a mistake, and that his statements about Mexican Justice are of bad taste. Here in France, serious reports and national newspapers explain that there are dark zones in the detention of Florence (apparently, the story told on Mexican TV was built to manipulate the public opinion...) That, cannot be accepted in a democratic country and, in France, it'd be enough of a reason to cancel a (legal) process. (...)

I have no doubt Florence is responsible (of the crimes), however, I believe she deserves a fair process.
I disagree with Sarcozy's style: he doesn't help Florence and threatens the relation between Mexico and France. You can't criticize like that the quality of a democratic country's justice on the international scene. I find Mexico's reaction proportional to the offense committed. I just want justice, independent and just, for Florence." - Charline P.

The arrest by the AFI

My personal opinion is not far from the ones you've just read; like I said before, I believe Mexico needs an urgent update to its legal system as things doesn't seem to be working properly they way there are at the time, times change and so need the laws. Regarding the particular case of Cassez, I find it hard to believe she is not guilty at all; based on witnesses' declarations and evidence shown she does carry some responsibilities, being an accomplice as the least of them; but I also believe she deserved to have a fair trial and the right to make use of all of the resources she thought were adequate to her defense. What I completely disagree with, is the attitude of Sarcozy, who cares more about his popularity than what's actually going on, as well as the level this whole situation has reached as one thing has nothing to do with the other and this is definitely not enough of a reason to damage the International relations between the two countries. Even though, for the first time, I believe Mexico is doing the right thing and responding properly and with absolute diplomacy.


I certainly hope Sarcozy reconsiders his position and understands things will not change in the legal case no matter what he does, so this can be over soon. Most French people I know love Mexico and Mexicans love France, too so things should go back to normal ASAP, before this goes any further.

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