Sunday, February 13, 2011

French diplomacy not what it was: Diplomatic spat reflects poorly on France

Everything about the "Cassez Case," that of French citizen Florence Cassez, arrested and sentenced to 60 years in prison for being a member of a gang of kidnappers, has been out of the ordinary.

Cassez, to recall, was captured in 2005 in an operation seemingly shown live on TV - seemingly, as it was later discovered that the operation was merely reenacted and that Cassez and the kidnapping gang had been apprehended two days earlier! It was quite possibly one of the stupidest acts carried out by Genaro García Luna's SSP or secretariat of public security, as it put the whole case into question: Was Cassez merely the stupidly naive girlfriend of the head of the kidnapping gang, or was she an active part of the gang's activities?

Mexican authorities argued the second version, and Cassez got 60 years. On Friday, Mexican judges rejected her lawyer's argument that her conviction was tainted by the authorities.

Without knowing anything of her guilt or lack thereof, France's reaction seems, to put it mildly, quite a stunning overreaction: Michèle Alliot-Marie, the French foreign minister strongly criticized the court's decision, calling it "deplorable," and threatened, as did other senior French officials, to boycott or cancel all cultural events involving Mexico in France, which was, irony of ironies, to be celebrating the "Year of Mexico." It seems, to put it mildly, an overreaction, a remarkably strong political offensive against the decision of another country's judiciary.

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.

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