Diplomatic row erupts with Mexico

A Mexico Year with many special events could be axed because of Mexico’s refusal to send a convict home to France

16 February 2011

A DIPLOMATIC row has erupted between France and Mexico over the latter’s refusal to send a Frenchwoman convicted of kidnapping back to France to continue her sentence.

The wrangling over Florence Cassez looks set to call a halt to a “Mexico Year” that was being planned in France.

Cassez, 36, was convicted in Mexico of being involved in the activities of a criminal gang led by her former Mexican boyfriend.

She maintains her innocence.

France has been seeking to have her sent back under international rules on prisoner transfers.

However Mexico’s top appeal court has upheld her conviction and its government has reaffirmed its refusal to send her to France.

She is serving a 60-year sentence, which does not exist in France (the maximum being 20), and Mexico’s leaders say they want her to serve the full term.

The row hotted up after President Sarkozy, following a meeting with Cassez’s parents, said he was dedicating the Mexico Year to her.

He said, however, he wanted to continue with it because it would be an insult to the people of Mexico if he did not.

He made a distinction between the Mexicans and “certain of their leaders”.

Mexico reacted by saying it would pull out of participating in the events; however its ambassador in Paris later said they may still participate if Sarkozy withdraws his “dedication” to Cassez.

Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand has said he “regrets culture is being taken hostage”.

About 350 events are planned in connection with the Mexico Year, including two exhibitions at the Quai d’Orsay museum.

Business between the two countries could also suffer.

Mexico’s trade commissioner, Enrique Perret Erhard, recently said he saw the main objective of the year as “boosting commercial relations and investments between the two countries”.

Commercial highlights are supposed to include a conference organised by Ubifrance, the French agency for export promotion, with the presence of both countries’ economy ministers, and the participation of Mexico at the aeronautics show at Le Bourget.

Photo: Screen shot from TF1

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