Mexico leader starts France trip under shadow of drug lord escape

13th July 2015, Comments 0 comments

Mexico's president on Monday began a state visit to France amid criticism of the rights situation in his country and drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's brazen escape from jail.

Enrique Pena Nieto arrived in Paris on Sunday to news that Guzman had escaped a maximum-security prison through a tunnel under his cell's shower, the second time in 14 years that the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel has fled jail.

He also landed to calls by rights group RSF to take measures to end violence against journalists in his country, and to criticism of "forced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention" regularly attributed to security forces in Mexico.

Ties between France and Mexico were hit by a diplomatic crisis triggered by the arrest of Frenchwoman Florence Cassez on kidnapping charges in 2005.

French President Francois Hollande and Pena Nieto have since mended ties after Cassez was released in 2013 by the Supreme Court, which ruled her arrest was rife with irregularities.

Pena Nieto was to launch the visit Monday with a ceremony at the Invalides military hospital and museum.

On Tuesday, in a first for a Mexican president, he will attend France's Bastille Day military parade alongside Hollande.

More than 150 Mexican soldiers will open the parade, including military falconers who will march with their golden eagles and buzzards.

Pena Nieto will also visit a factory belonging to Airbus Helicopters in southern France, and a number of deals in the fields of security, energy, health and other areas are due to be signed.

Pena Nieto's government has won praise for capturing a slew of kingpins, and Guzman, a diminutive but feared man whose nickname means "Shorty," was his biggest trophy.

His escape is an embarrassing blow to Pena Nieto, whose popularity already nosedived last year after local police in the southern city of Iguala seized 43 college students and delivered them to a drug gang that allegedly slaughtered them all.

France's communist party said Pena Nieto's presence at the military parade was "a slap in the face" of the families of the students.

It also slammed it as "a gesture of contempt towards all those who fight against the reign of impunity, corruption and violence."

© 2015 AFP

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