Child custody case jolts French leader's Mexico trip

10th April 2014, Comments 0 comments

France's president traveled to Mexico to bury diplomatic tensions, but his ex-partner jarred his visit Thursday by championing the cause of a Frenchwoman's child custody battle with a former Mexican governor.

President Enrique Pena Nieto treated French leader Francois Hollande to the full honors of a state visit, with cannon salvos at the Campo Marte military field in Mexico City.

They both agreed on a fresh start in relations after past tensions caused by the case of Florence Cassez, a Frenchwoman accused of kidnapping who was released in January 2013 after seven years in a Mexican prison.

But a tweet by Hollande's jilted former partner Valerie Trierweiler supporting a woman who says her Mexican ex-husband abducted their children threw a new spanner in the works.

Trierweiler, who had kept a low profile since Hollande dumped her earlier this year after revelations he had an affair with an actress, tweeted her support for Maude Versini "who has not seen her three children for 847 days, held by their father in Mexico."

"Let's help her. @francediplo must act," she said in the tweet, referring to the name of the Twitter account of France's foreign ministry.

Versini's ex-husband is Arturo Montiel, who is close to Pena Nieto and was governor of Mexico's most populous state between 1999-2005.

Hollande addressed the issue during a meeting with the French community in Mexico City, saying that France "does not abandon anybody."

"France must defend everybody who is French, whether they are abroad or on our soil," he said.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who was traveling with Hollande, told reporters that it was a "delicate situation" in the hands of the Mexican justice system, but that Paris wanted a "humane solution."

Montiel was included in Forbes' list of the 10 most corrupt Mexicans last year, with the magazine saying he dropped out of the presidential race in 2005 "following allegations of millionaire mansions and bank transactions in Mexico and France."

In a radio interview, Versini said her husband "does not hesitate to use all his influence, to buy out judges, he is scared of nothing and feels he is above the law."

- Tumultuous history -

Earlier, Pena Nieto and Hollande reaffirmed their decision to renew relations between the two nations and signed 42 agreements in the fields of economic cooperation, security and culture.

"Our two countries share a long, sometimes tumultuous, history, but always respectful," Hollande in a speech at Campo Marte.

"We have the conviction that we are opening a new page in relations between our two countries," he said.

Pena Nieto recalled that the two leaders had already agreed in a meeting in Paris in October 2012 to give relations "a renewed momentum."

Ties had been strained under their predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy and Felipe Calderon, whose governments feuded after Cassez was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

She was arrested in 2005 and accused of involvement with a gang of kidnappers led by her ex-boyfriend.

Relations reached a low in February 2011, when Mexican authorities pulled out of a "Year of Mexico" cultural event in France after then-president Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to dedicate it to Cassez, angering Calderon.

Cassez was released and returned to France in January 2013, when the Supreme Court ruled that police had violated her rights by re-enacting her arrest on national television.

© 2014 AFP

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