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Archive for the ‘Florence Cassez’ Category

Until 2:00 pm yesterday, I was glued to the live transmission of the Mexican Supreme

Florence's painting

One of Florence’s paintings

Court last examination of Florence Cassez’ case; Trying to make sense with my flimsy Spanish of what was going on.  I had to leave when Justice Zaldivar was eloquently making the case that the Mexican High Court was a Constitutional Court, not a Court of Appeal; and hence arguing- I believe- that the Court was not in the business of redoing another Florence’s trial all over again.

Later on, I would learn that the verdict was 3-2 for Olga Sanchez Cordero’s proposal and that Florence was to be freed immediately.

I visited Florence on December 29 of last year for the second time in the Centro de Readaptación Femenil de Tepepan in Mexico City.  She knew a review of her case by the Supreme Court was pending but did not know when at this time. We talked about her projects if…. Yet she was evasive, even tense, while talking about herself.  She has developed a real talent for painting in jail and was about to give painting classes – along with aerobic classes- to her fellow inmates; What struck me was that she was much more eloquent about what she wanted to do for women who like her, were in jail for reasons as shaky as those for which she was incarcerated. I could not help but think that if I were in her shoes – innocent and in jail for seven years- I would be devoured by bitterness and anger and not necessarily think of the fate of my brethren…

The Supreme Court’s decision is real good news  for Florence; it is also real good news for justice in Mexico.  Televisa’s apology for having staged Florence’s arrest (finally) on December 2005 , is a sign that things may change. Also, Mexico has to be a better place to get justice now that former Presidente Felipe Calderón is not around. He himself  may touch on that in his lectures at Harvard…

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Montes Famliy (LA Times)

Mexico has a kidnapping problem. I am not talking about the “internal” Mexican kidnapping problem, which the Calderón administration has failed to keep at bay on all account. Making a scapegoat of Florence Cassez has just been a way to hide its failure from the Mexican public.  I am talking here of Mexico’s “external” kidnapping problem, the kidnapping of Mexican children by the US family court system: children whose parents are undocumented workers sent back to their country, and are given for adoption to US families on the grounds it is in their best interest.

First Alfonso Mejia and Margarita Almaraz, Encarnacíon Bail Romero and  Cirila Balthazar Cruz. Enters Felipe Montes.  Felipe Montes comes to the US illegally in 2003, starts working in North Carolina and gets married to Marie with whom he has three children. Unfortunately he gets deported and his wife is declared unfit to raise the children. They are placed with foster parents, who wish to adopt the children.  From that point on, Felipe Montes has to play Sparta family court (Allegheny County, North Carolina)’s lose-lose game, that is demonstrating he is worth the children. Although he has no criminal record and has taken care of the children, social workers did wonder if sending the children to Mexico was in their best interest. Felipe is living in a rural area around Tamaulipas in a house with no running water. These brillant social engineers are asking themselves if poverty should prevent parenting.

Sparta family court is supposed to render a sentence tomorrow.  Too late to suggest to social workers there how they would feel if, after venturing in a foreign country, marrying somebody there, being kicked out of there without their children, they would be denied parenting on the ground that, let say, children are better off  there because, you know, the North Carolina hamburger-based diet is not the healthiest for children, and children are better off be shielded from North Carolina gun violence.

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I have been holding my breath for more than a  week, since the President of the Mexican Supreme Court Arturo Zaldívar put on the Court agenda Florence Cassez’s unconditional and immediate liberation. I thought this time, Florence would be whiffing Spring time outside of jail for the first time in six years. The Court decision came yesterday, March 21 and it is disappointing, for Florence Cassez and for the Mexican justice system: although four judges acknowledged serious violations of Florence’ human rights had flawed due process, only two voted for her immediate liberation. A majority of three was needed.

I am no Mexican constitutional lawyer, but I have to confess that the positions of those judges who did not see yesterday the legal imperative to let Florence go are quite puzzling: Pardo Rebollado for instance, stated that it was not “the appropriate legal moment” for the Supreme Court to take on the task to liberate Florence (when will it be if not now, let alone yesterday?); For Ramón Cossío, violations to due process in Cassez’s case were not serious enough to warrant her liberation; he wants another trial.  As if the Mexican justice system had not shown enough it was prone to commit type I errors – put innocents in jail and for that matter, Florence- not to give it another chance to do so…

It is clear one would not be that tempted to second guess the Mexican Supreme Court decision had President Calderón refrained from telling it how he wanted it to rule. Before the Supreme Court rendered its decision, Felipe Calderón urged it to take into account the victims of kidnappings. In so doing, Calderón encroached on the prerogatives of the judiciary. This is actually quite consistent with his administration practices, which blur the borders between justice and police actions:  Genaro Garcia Luna, the Secretary of Public Safety since 2006, cooks proofs, produces victims and culprits and stages them for TV.

President Calderón posturing as the knight of victims of kidnapping has something tragically ironical to it.  According to Damien Cave in a March 17 New York Times article, reported abductions in Mexico are up 300% since 2005.  There is even a new trend going on: the kidnapping of entire families.   Keeping Florence Cassez in jail at any price is about all that Calderón has yet left to mislead the Mexican people on the calamitous outcome of his administration in the area of crime prevention, kidnappings included.

One day will come, soon I hope, when Mexicans will not buy anymore the Calderón-Wallace propaganda that sells Florence’s liberation as a favor to a foreigner,  but will realize that liberating an innocent – who happened to be a foreigner- is a favor to the Mexican justice system and to Mexicans. Meanwhile, hold on Florence.  Abrazos.

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On Sunday January 8, 2012, I met Florence Cassez, the French women who has been sentenced to serve sixty years in prison by the

Florence (filou.fr)

Mexican justice for the crimes of  kidnapping and organized crime she did not commit.  As I was carrying the  grilled chicken Florence had asked me to bring for lunch, heading toward the Centro Feminil de Readaptacion Social de Tepepan (South of Mexico City) where she is incarcerated, I was still struggling with the thought that had started to bug me since Florence had accepted my request to visit her, three days before: I am no journalist, no lawyer, and therefore I could not be of much help to her.

I know I will not sleep much until she is set free, but I also know now she does not need my help that much. The first thing I found out last Sunday is that she has been helping herself amazingly well given what she has gone through. Before meeting her, I had in mind the image of Florence in shock during the AFI (Agencia Federal de Investigacíon, the Mexican FBI) ‘s remake of her arrestation for the Mexican TV, on December 9 2005. The Florence Cassez I see after passing security, as I step into the large room where a crowd of inmates is meeting and eating with its visitors, has nothing to do with that.  She is a rather tall women with an intense and reflective gaze. She graciously introduces me to her two other visitors, among whom David Bertet, who manages the Canadian Committee in Support of Florence. I quickly discover she has guts. Indeed, as I am telling her I did not understand why the Mexican government  (Mexico is a signatory of the 1983 Strasbourg convention on the transfer of sentenced persons) has been dragging its feet to repatriate Florence to France while invoking the incompatibility of the French thirty-year maximum jail sentence with Florence’s, she brushes away this option. Repatriation? No Sir. She did not want that. Doing time in France meant acknowledging she was guilty. She is innocent. Florence wants the Cassez’s case to be cleared in Mexico. She is fully aware that if it were to happen, it would have wide implications for the working of the Mexican justice system, and for the lot of those Mexican whose rights are violated and who, like her, rot in jail thanks to flawed or made-up accusations of kidnapping.

As the discussion unfolds around lunch, I cannot but notice with immense pleasure that it is interrupted many times. Florence is not at all ostracized as I was fearing. On the contrary, she is a popular figure here. Folks want to chat with her. She keeps getting up, keeps leaving the table to shake hands or hug people. David Bertet told me aside that her humility, her acceptance of the rules of the jail, have earned her the respect of the inmates and that of the prison’s authorities. According to Florence, it has not always been like that; President Sarkozy’s intervention with the Senate and the Mexican government was key to the inmates’change of mind about her. As they saw the French President himself pulling up his sleeves for Florence, people started to question the way most of the Mexican media had depicted her, as the secuestradora, the Francesa diabolica. I gladly admit I was off the mark in an earlier criticism of Sarkozy’s intervention on this blog. Yet I think that Florence is perhaps too modest. Her audacious resilience in claiming her innocence must have something to do with people’s empathy for her.

Also, Florence Cassez is beautiful. She is a beautiful woman, but what I mean here, she is beautiful on the inside.  For instance, when I asked her how come she did not know anything about Israel Vallarta (he ex)’s deeds, she first pauses and slowly, simply, refraining from crying, she states she has so often reproached herself for and been haunted by not having seen anything suspicious with Vallarta; It just never was a serious relation for her. At this moment, I feel like a total idiot for having asked this question. When you are unfairly accused of something, you feel there must be something wrong with you, and people too think that there must be something wrong with you that justifies your situation. I have been there, and I have never been sentenced to jail. As upon my return from the visit, I was moving ahead in my reading of Florence’s book –  A La Sombra de Mi Vida- her answer would appear blatantly true.  Florence only lived two months with Vallarta and then, their relation had ended.  After all, Rosemarie Fritzl, the cellar monster’s wife, lived her life next to Joseph Fritzl and she did not no have a clue about what he was doing in his bunker under his house.

The next step? The decision of the Mexican Supreme Court that Florence’s lawyer has appealed to. It should come in the first half of 2012. I used to think that the best thing for the Mexican democracy was a Lopes Obrador’s victory in 2006. There was one, but it was stolen from him. Florence’s story made me think that out of the three pillars of a democracy, the judiciary – a sound and independent one- is the most important. Clearing Florence Cassez from the accusations that were brought against her would put an end to a six-year violation of her basic human rights. But also, it would prompt the beginning of the end of “la ley de Herodes” (“o te chingas o te jodes”) that has marked the Mexican political life since the Mexican revolution.

A few links and addresses to learn more about Florence Cassez:

comite_florence_cassez_montreal@live.com
twitter :  Florence_Casse1
twitter (esp) : MXporFCassez

www.mexicoporflorencecassez.wordpress.com (Mx)

www.liberezflorencecassez.com (Fr)

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