Florence Cassez (press review)

FLORENCE CASSEZ SHOULD MATTER TO ALL OF US  (May, 2011)

Fred Johnston (Irish writer)

At the airport in the city of Algiers, the official in the impeccable suit was polite but firm. The little white card, obligatory at the time, which I had filled in on the ‘plane with my occupation as ‘Journaliste’ had caused him some concern, so he took my passport and bundled it into his jacket. I couldn’t be a ‘journaliste’ of any kind without authorisation and I hadn’t any.
The official at the airport in Tunisia, as I was leaving, was similarly annoyed by my having a typewriter. What was it for? Who did I write for? It was an up-against-the-wall moment. Bizarrely, I got out of that one by saying I used it to write poems. Both instances, years apart, reminded me that I was not in my home country and that I could be both foolish and forgetful. Different rules and regulations applied. I was not an amiable Paddy but a potential spy, informant for Amnesty, something like that. And we know what transpired subsequently in both countries.

Neither incident of being questioned could be termed repressive. There were rules and I didn’t know them. Security was doing what it’s paid to do, no blame can attach to them. But innocence is no excuse.

And so what happened to the charming and innocent girl from Béthune in France could happen to any one of us, any one of our sons or daughters. Finding herself, or trying to – by her own admission, she was roving and unsettled – in Mexico with her married brother should not have meant a sentence of 92 years imprisonment, reduced, with appalling cynicism, to 62 years. Her story has been told and echoed round the world and anyone can Google her name for further information. I won’t reiterate the case here, save to say that she met someone, as one may to do anywhere in the world, and didn’t know about this charmer’s other alleged occupation. What laws govern a young woman’s feelings? No court can rule on that one.

To look at her image, and there are many of them, some of them with her behind bars, is to see a heartbreakingly beautiful young woman with eyes washed by loneliness and despair. No weekly parental visits for her, visits from old friends. She receives correspondence and parcels from all over the world: but they are not the warm touch of a hand, the reassuring smile of a loved one. That she is innocent is beyond doubt; she was served up to Hell by a Mexican police force and judiciary determined to cool the heat of almost legendary corruption and gangsterism. She was the fall-guy, the patsy. Into this throw a smidgeen of politics. Kidnapping – for this was the crime of which she stood accused – is a national pastime in Mexico, usually carried out by gangs and usually lucrative. She is 36. My own daughter is not much younger. Her sentence amounts to a sentence of death and has no equal in any country in Europe. Her health, physical and psychological, is not good.

Yes, you say; but there are many prisoners falsely convicted in many parts of the world, often for insane political reasons, so why home in on one foolish French girl? Is it because she is good-looking? Well, if anyone can tell me of a case where a woman is sentenced to 62 years on false witness testimony – even ‘life’ is never life unless determined by a court – I’ll have a rethink. One wonders whether execution is worse. The reason I am involved is that I feel a great injustice has been perpetrated; more, I see her as standing for all the judicial and political ills that can be foisted upon persons in countries not their own, and who will watch their lives fade away because an entire power has been mobilised (including a compliant media) in order to erase them as human beings. And in either Algeria or Tunisia, it might have happened to me. I feel too for her parents, their impotence in the face of a system that will not be turned even by the President of France himself. And to what end? To show that they are ‘in control?’ To show that they have a handle on crime? Nothing prevents at least four people per day being slaughtered in drug wars in the city of Juarez, which, as someone else has pointed out, is a figure unmatched by conflicts in Afghanistan or Iraq. Florence Cassez’s imprisonment has made Mexico appear even more unlawful and indiscriminately inhumane.

Your daughter or son may visit, let’s say, the state of Texas. Great fun. Away from home. They may meet someone. Someone handsome, lovely, genial. If this individual, driving home one night, decides to kill someone while holding up a shop as your child love-smittenly waits unwitting in the car, there’s a murder charge on both their heads. The needle, if not life in prison. Think about it. Whether they are good-looking as they are led off to the cells is hardly an issue.

Irish people perhaps more than most should be aware of miscarriages of justice, the Birmingham Six case being arguably the most blatant. We should not need encouraging to support the international calls for justice for Florence Cassez Crépin. We need to start writing letters to our TDs. To newspapers. And as your daughter or son heads for the flight that will take them on their first solo adventure abroad, remember Florence. In jail in Tepepan for something she did not do. In jail to satisfy the PR of a country where crime is out of control. Innocence is no excuse. In Mexico, it is indefensible.

IMPRISONED FRENCH WOMAN TO APPEAL IN MEXICO\’S SUPREME COURT (March, 2011)
RFI

Florence Cassez, the French woman convicted in Mexico on kidnapping charges and sentenced to 60 years in prison, was to lodge an appeal Monday at the Mexican Supreme Court, according to her Mexican lawyer. The case of Florence Cassez has caused a diplomatic row, as France is asking for her to serve out her term at home.

Cassez’s lawyer, Agustin Acosta, says his client is appealing the constitutionality of her 10 February appeal court ruling, which confirmed her 60-year sentence.

Tensions between France and Mexico have been strained since the court ruling, when Mexico’s government cancelled a year of Mexican cultural celebrations in France after French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he would dedicate them to Cassez.

Cassez is accused of being involved in a kidnapping ring allegedly run by her former Mexican boyfriend, Israel Vallarta. She has denied the accusations, and has argued that her conviction was tainted by the authorities who admitted staging her arrest for the media five years ago.

FLORENCE CASSEZ, AND THE TRUE FACE OF THE MEXICAN JUSTICE (February, 2011)

From Mexico – France 24

The Florence Cassez’s case is unprecedented in recent Mexican justice. The so called promise of change that the right wing party, theNational Action Party (PAN) bragged by its 2000 presidential candidate and former Mexican president Vicente Fox never came. After a decade in power of the right wing it seems that the country is in a constant decline and becoming into the worst version of theRevolutionary Institutional Party’s regime (PRI). What it should have been the overthrow of a political regime of more then seven decades, where corruption, injustice, human rights abuses and anti-democratic practices prevailed, the political transition of 2000 just reinforced this.

Florence Cassez is not the only person to be lock up in jail unfairly, there are many Mexicans being sent to jail for not committing a crime. The only differences of the Frenchwoman’s case with the other cases was that she had a TV arrest with political implications and above all an oversees impact. This in some way has brought to the public attention the inefficient and corrupt Mexican justice system and of high rank government officials.

With the drug war and the fight against the organized crime, President Felipe Calderon’s government seems to be in a constant race to detain members of drug gang and dismantle kidnapping gangs as much as possible, no matter if in the process they sent innocents to prison. This urgency is due to overcome the perceptions of a large number of Mexicans that strongly believes that the drug war and the fight against the organized crime is lost.

Florence Cassez controversy

The denial to grant Florence Cassez’s final appeal on February 10th was the straw that broke the camel’s back between Mexico and France. Many opinion leaders and public personalities expressed in the press their outrage that French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to dedicate the Year of Mexico in France’ to the Frenchwoman, three times convicted for her “involvement” in the kidnapped of three people, or as the local media labeled her as “La secuestradora francesa” (The French kidnapper), long before she was trial. They also blame French president Sarkozy of politicize the case. There is no doubt that this case was politicized, but not by the French government but by the Mexican authorities.

Anyone that revised the 10,000 pages of the case dossier, in which the 36 year old Frenchwomen is just mention in 20 pages, and have a little common sense will notice that Florence Cassez was convicted, based only in the victims statements where they incriminated her, and it is fair to say, that this happened couple months later, after the defendant revealed by phone on national television, during the TV show “Punto de Partida” (Televisa) hosted by Denise Maerker, that her real arrest took place a day before her televised arrest. Beyond that, we should all raise the question, why didn’t the authorities and judges took into account the remaining 9,980 documents of the dossier where Miss Cassez isn’t mention? It’s more then evident that they didn’t investigated the others that are involve and were pointed out by the victims, and included on the case dossier. It is still hard to believe that the gang of “Los Zodiacos” operated only with just two members, can that even be considered as organized crime?!

After following closely and studying the case for the past three years I have no doubt that this case turned out to be more of a revenge from the Mexican authorities against Florence Cassez instead of doing justice. It all looks that it was simply unacceptable and intolerable for the Mexican authorities and especially for the masterminds of the televised rescue operation, that a foreigner woman placed them on a uncomfortable and embarrassing position in national television, that they had no other choice but to accept that, what the Mexicans view that morning of December 9th 2005 on their television screens was, what they like to call a “recreation” by request of journalists.

What if, hypothetically speaking, Florence Cassez would have stayed quiet and not confront publicly to the high rank police officials, probably she would be freed discreetly and anyone would have known. The major concern of all this, is the fact that the Mexican judicial systems deliberated in this case in particularly in favor of the interests of the executive branch, as it was reported on the Mexican weekly magazine “Proceso” edition #1790 20/02/11. Where it points out that the private secretary of President Calderon held a private meeting with the ministers of the Supreme Court of Justice, warning that if the appeal is granted to Florence Cassez, “not only the Secretary of Public Security would go down but also the government’s fight against the organized crime”. Despite all of these, they are expecting to convince not only the Mexican public opinion but the French government as well, that the Mexican justice is hundred percent independent and trustworthy.

FRANCE, MEXICO SPAR OVER JAILES FRENCHWOMAN (november, 2011)

ABS-CBC news

PARIS, France – Diplomatic tensions rose between Mexico and France on Friday over the case of a Frenchwoman imprisoned in Mexico.

Mexico angrily rejected French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie’s comment that Florence Cassez, whose conviction for kidnapping was upheld by a Mexican court on appeal, had suffered a “denial of justice.”

Alliot-Marie reiterated her stance, saying she had summoned the Mexican ambassador and would avoid attending a programme of Mexican cultural events in France this year.

“It is a true denial of justice,” she said on France 2 television on Friday. “I am going to say as much to the Mexican ambassador… this will have consequences.”

“The Mexican foreign ministry deplores the declarations of Madame Alliot-Marie,” said a statement from the Mexican embassy in France. “The ministry has refuted the claim of a denial of justice.”

Cassez, 36, is serving a 60-year prison term for kidnapping. On Thursday Mexican judges rejected her lawyer’s argument that her conviction was tainted by authorities, who were revealed to have staged her arrest five years ago.

Alliot-Marie warned on Thursday: “This decision is going to weigh on our bilateral relations.”

Mexico is due to take over the leadership of the G20 economic grouping from Paris next year. Separately, the two countries have just launched a year of joint Mexican cultural celebrations in France.

Charlotte Cassez, the mother of the jailed woman, held a news conference calling on French President Nicolas Sarkozy to cancel the cultural year.

Alliot-Marie weathered a scandal in recent weeks for holidaying in Tunisia during a popular uprising against its authoritarian regime and for suggesting, during a violent crackdown, that French police could train Tunisian forces.

NICHOLAS SARKOZY FIGHTS TO FREE FLORENCE CASSEZ FROM MEXICAN JAIL

Times online

The harrowing account of a French woman who has been jailed for life in Mexico despite vigorously protesting her innocence has filled her countrymen with indignation, souring relations between the two countries.

Florence Cassez, who has been in prison since 2005 on seemingly baseless kidnapping charges, writes in a book of her despair at the thought of spending the rest of her life behind bars. Even President Nicolas Sarkozy, who believes she has committed no crime, seems powerless over Mexican authorities and is quoted as saying: “They’re making fun of us.”

Increasingly depressed, Cassez, 34, lives for the calls she is allowed to make from a public telephone on the wall of the fly-infested prison. She has often had the French president on the phone.

“I wonder if the people at the other end understand the gap between us, them in their armchairs, me leaning against the wall, or kneeling on the ground while men stop and stare at me in the corridor, poking each other in the ribs, laughing,” writes Cassez in her memoir, In the Shadow of My Life, which appeared in Paris bookshops last week.

CASSEZ WANTS YEARS OF MEXICO EVENTS TO GO ON IN FRANCE (February, 2011)

PARIS – Frenchwoman Florence Cassez, who is serving a 60-year prison sentence in Mexico for kidnapping, said in an interview Sunday that she did not want France to cancel “Year of Mexico” events but to use the opportunity to talk about her case.

“The worst thing that can happen to me is to be forgotten,” Cassez told France Info.

Cassez’s family called for the cancellation of the events, but the convicted kidnapper said she wanted the celebration to go on.

A Mexican appellate court on Thursday rejected a habeas corpus motion filed by Cassez’s defense team, which alleged numerous irregularities in her case.

Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie on Friday summoned Mexican Ambassador to France Carlos de Icaza to the Foreign Ministry to express France’s displeasure with the ruling and to inform him that it “will have an impact on bilateral relations.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy “has never abandoned me and has done a lot for me,” the 36-year-old Cassez said.

Sarkozy asked Mexican President Felipe Calderon to repatriate Cassez during his visit to Mexico in March 2009.

Calderon and Sarkozy met again during the European Union-Latin America-Caribbean Summit in Madrid last May.

Sarkozy brought up Cassez’s situation during the meeting in the Spanish capital and “expressed his interest” in invoking the Strasbourg Convention in the case of the woman, requesting that she be transferred to France.

Calderon, however, told Sarkozy Cassez could not serve the prison sentence she was given in Mexico in her homeland.

The Mexican president noted the “substantial differences” between the legal systems in the two countries, which “prevent guaranteeing” that the sentence be served in France.

Cassez was arrested on Dec. 8, 2005, on the Mexico City-Cuernavaca highway along with her boyfriend, Israel Vallarta, the suspected leader of the Los Zodiaco kidnapping gang.

A day later, agents from the now-defunct AFI, Mexico’s equivalent of the FBI, staged a mock raid so TV cameras could film the arrest of the gang members in a wooded area near Mexico City.

The Frenchwoman was sentenced to 98 years in prison in 2008, but her sentence was reduced to 60 years before Sarkozy’s visit to Mexico.

Cassez’s family has called for a tourist boycott of Mexico and for the cancellation of a series of activities this year in France to celebrate Mexican culture.

Alliot-Marie has been first to back that initiative, saying that she will not participate in any of the scheduled “Year of Mexico” events.

The foreign minister said Cassez did not receive a fair trial due to a lack of a “presumption of innocence” and the “absence of an authentic investigation.”

MEXICAN COURT UPHOLDS FRENCH WOMAN\’S CONVICTION (February, 2011)

Washington Post

Florian Blazy, second counselor of the Embassy of France in Mexico, speaks with journalists outside a courtroom in Mexico City, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2010. An appeals court on Thursday upheld the conviction and the 60-year-sentence of Florence Cassez, a French woman imprisoned in Mexico for kidnapping, a case that has ignited passions in both Mexico and France and caused friction between the two governments. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo) (Eduardo Verdugo – AP)

FILE – In this Dec. 9, 2005 file photo, French citizen Florence Cassez is shown to the press during a police reenactment for the media of her actual arrest the day before on the outskirts of Mexico City. An appeals court on Thursday Feb. 10, 2011 upheld her conviction and 60-year-sentence for kidnapping. (AP Photo, File) (AP)

MEXICO CITY — An appeals court on Thursday upheld the conviction of a French woman imprisoned in Mexico for kidnapping, a case that has ignited passions in both Mexico and France and caused friction between the two governments.

France’s foreign minister reacted strongly, calling the decision deplorable and saying it would affect relations with Mexico.

The court said in a statement that the conviction and 60-year-sentence of Florence Cassez would stand. The court said that prosecutors had proved Cassez’s guilt in three 2005 kidnappings and that irregularities alleged by her defense attorney did not hinder the case.

Cassez has acknowledged she lived at a ranch near Mexico City where the kidnap victims were held, including an 8-year-old girl. But she said she was simply dating a Mexican arrested in the case and did not know the people at the ranch had been kidnapped.

One of the victims identified Cassez as one of her captors, and another suspect in the case said the Frenchwoman not only participated in abductions, but helped lead the gang that carried them out.

The appeals court ruled that while the victims never saw Cassez’s face, they identified her by her voice, foreign accent and hair color.

Cassez’s imprisonment became a hotly debated issue in France after Mexican police acknowledged they staged a televised raid of the ranch in which officers appeared to rescue the hostages and detain Cassez and a Mexican man. The Attorney General’s Office acknowledged that, in fact, Cassez had been arrested the day before outside the ranch.

French Foreign Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie harshly criticized the court’s decision, saying she was dismayed by the ruling and warning it “will weigh on our bilateral relations” with Mexico.

“This decision is deplorable,” Alliot-Marie added in a statement.

“None of the fundamental legal or factual elements raised by Florence Cassez’s defense were taken into account, as they should have been in a state of law,” she said.

Alliot-Marie said the French government will not abandon Cassez and will explore all legal paths available.

Defense lawyer Agustin Acosta argued that parading Cassez in front of the cameras after her arrest prejudiced the case from the beginning. But the appeals court rejected that argument, saying those videos were not formally considered during the trial.

“She was presented as guilty in front of the television,” Acosta said. “We all know the impact of television and how it can influence judges and everybody.”

Acosta also said the victims changed their testimony several times during the trial. He said that at first, three victims said they could not identify Cassez. But after the staging of the raid was discovered – two months after authorities first announced her arrest – two of the victims told police they could identify her, Acosta said.

He also said the victims described the events as they unfolded before the cameras during the staged raid – and not how they really happened. One woman described being rescued by uniformed and masked police and said she heard people climbing the walls and breaking down doors.

However, Acosta said police later acknowledged they were dressed in civilian clothing and were let into the ranch by Israel Vallarta, Cassez’s ex-boyfriend who was also arrested.

One of the victims, Ezequiel Elizalde, said during a 2009 radio interview that Cassez threatened to mutilate and kill him, telling him to choose “a finger or an ear.” He said he had a scar on his finger where Florence pricked it with a needle and said she was giving him anesthesia.

Acosta said Elizalde and police gave three different version of the day he was stuck with the needle. He said the defense presented forensic evidence that it was a birthmark – not a scar – on his finger and that the prosecutors never conducted their own forensic tests or disputed the defense’s findings.

MEXICAN CULTURAL EVENTS CANCELLED IN PARIS OVER CASSEZ CASE (February, 2011)

France 24

PARIS – A conference featuring Mexican writer Jose Emilio Pacheco, an exhibition of the work of sculptor Rivelino and the “Maya Jade Masks” exhibit are the first big events cancelled in Paris due to the French-Mexican diplomatic dispute over the Cassez case.

The three events, considered the first major ones scheduled as part of the “Year of Mexico in France” celebration, a series of more than 350 art, cultural and business events scheduled to run through 2011, have been cancelled, spokesmen for the Mexican Embassy in Paris told Efe.

France and Mexico have been sparring for several weeks over the case of Florence Cassez, a Frenchwoman convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to 60 years in prison in Mexico.

The Rivelino exhibition was slated to start next Tuesday, while the conference featuring Pacheco, who won the 2009 Cervantes Prize, was scheduled to take place on March 10 at the National Library.

Film and literary events set for late March and dedicated to Mexico could be the next ones affected.

Conferences on Mexico set for April in Paris and Poitiers, as well as an exhibition of pre-Hispanic art in Rennes, a music festival in Grenoble and an exhibition of Gabriel Figueroa’s photographs also face possible cancellation.

The southern French city of Toulouse cancelled its Year of Mexico events last Thursday, becoming the first French city to take such an action to protest the treatment of Cassez, who France contends did not get a fair trial in Mexico.

France initially hinted at the possible cancellation of the celebration but later said it would move forward with the events and use them, in part, to draw attention to Cassez’s plight.

The announcement drew the ire of Mexico, which said its officials would not take part in the events if they were used to draw attention to the convicted kidnapper’s situation.

Last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy termed Cassez’s conviction a “humanitarian case” and said he would continue to request that she be allowed to serve out her sentence in France.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s administration has said the Frenchwoman – who received a 98-year prison sentence in 2008 that was subsequently reduced to 60 years – cannot be repatriated due to the possibility that Cassez could obtain a drastic reduction or suspension of her sentence if she were to be sent back to her homeland.

The 36-year-old Cassez was arrested on Dec. 8, 2005, on the Mexico City-Cuernavaca highway along with her boyfriend, Israel Vallarta, the suspected leader of the Los Zodiaco kidnapping gang.

A day later, agents from the now-defunct AFI, Mexico’s equivalent of the FBI, staged a mock raid so TV cameras could film the arrest of the gang members in a wooded area near Mexico City.

Cassez’s defense team said witnesses changed their testimony and implicated the Frenchwoman in the abductions after it emerged that the raid shown on television was a re-enactment of the original police operation.

Cassez has proclaimed her innocence from the beginning, denying that she participated in kidnappings.

A Mexican appellate court upheld Cassez’s conviction earlier this month, rejecting a habeas corpus motion filed by her defense team, which denounced numerous irregularities in her case.

A poll released last week in Mexico City found that 59 percent of Mexicans believe Cassez is guilty. EFE

FRENCHWOMAN IMPRISONED IN MEXICO TO SEEK NEW TRIAL (2010)

Latin Herald Tribune

PARIS – A Frenchwoman serving a 60-year prison sentence in Mexico for kidnapping plans to request a new trial on the basis of allegations she makes in a newly published book, which she says could make her vulnerable to retaliation by Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna.

“I expect the worst” from Garcia Luna, Florence Cassez said in an interview from prison that France Info radio broadcast Thursday to coincide with the release in her homeland of her book, “A l’ombre de ma vie” (In the Darkness of My Life).

She told the station she fears retaliation due to the content of the book, in which she levels accusations against Mexican authorities and in particular the then-head of the police investigations agency that arrested her, Garcia Luna, whom the Frenchwoman’s defense team says instigated the accusations against her.

Cassez and her boyfriend, Israel Vallarta Cisneros, were arrested in December 2005 at a ranch near Mexico City, in an operation in which three kidnap victims were freed, but the case has been tainted by controversy almost since the beginning.

In February 2006, the Mexican government admitted that federal agents recreated the kidnappers’ arrest so the media could film the event.

Federal agents staged a mock raid on Dec. 9, 2005, allowing TV cameras to film the arrests in a wooded area near Mexico City.

Cassez’s defense team said witnesses changed their testimonies and implicated the Frenchwoman in the kidnappings after it emerged that the raid shown on television was a re-enactment of the original police operation.

“Of course I’m afraid because they’re capable of anything,” but I’ve calculated that risk.”

Cassez said she hopes French President Nicolas Sarkozy reads the book – which she wrote secretly behind bars – because “it will let him understand who I am.”

The convicted kidnapper praised Sarkozy’s efforts to secure her repatriation, saying he “is doing the maximum” and that she does not know “what else he can do.”

Cassez’s attorney, Franck Berton, said his client’s book demonstrates “Garcia Luna’s viciousness against her” and that she will ask Mexico’s Supreme Court to grant her a new trial based on the new allegations it contains.

But he also said the odds were stacked against her because given “the state of the Mexican justice (system), we have very limited faith in the Supreme Court justices.”

He also stressed the need to resort to international mechanisms to secure Cassez’s repatriation to France.

Last December, however, the Mexican government issued a statement through its embassy in France that the matter of a potential transfer of Cassez to her homeland had been “concluded.”

It said the 34-year-old Frenchwoman – who received a 98-year prison sentence in 2008 that was subsequently reduced to 60 years – could not be repatriated due to “substantial differences” in the legal systems of the two countries, referring to the possibility that Cassez could obtain a drastic reduction or suspension of her sentence if she were to be sent back to her homeland.

Several months earlier, a bi-national commission had been created to study the possible application in Cassez’s case of the Strasbourg Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.

Although Mexico is a signatory to that 1983 treaty, Calderon said in a national address on June 22 that the Mexican government would not repatriate Cassez and that she “will serve her sentence of 60 years in prison in Mexico” for the crimes she committed.

“The conditions do not exist so that the punishment imposed” by a Mexican judge “will be carried out fully in France,” making it impossible to agree to a voluntary bi-national agreement under the treaty, which Mexico signed in 2007, Calderon said.

Public opinion in Mexico, which has one of the world’s highest kidnapping rates, is steadfastly against the repatriation of Cassez.

Last May, a suspected member of the “Los Zodiaco” kidnapping gang, whose leader was Vallarta Cisneros, told authorities that Cassez organized two kidnappings in Mexico.

Cassez, however, has maintained her innocence and said she had no idea her boyfriend was a kidnapper. EFE

INVESTIGATION INTO POSSIBLE MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE RAISES HOPES FOR CASSEZ (July, 2010)

France 24

Mexican police have confirmed that a probe has been launched against federal agents responsible for the 2005 arrest of Frenchwoman Florence Cassez (pictured) on charges of kidnapping. Allegations have been made that Cassez’s arrest was staged.

By FRANCE 24 (text)

Mexican authorities confirmed Wednesday that an investigation is underway against federal agents who arrested French national Florence Cassez in Mexico on kidnapping charges in 2005.

This investigation, launched in August 2006, could shed light on the circumstances of Cassez’s arrest and possibly reveal long-suspected misconduct by federal agents from Mexico’s Federal Investigation Agency (AFI).

French authorities say the elements accumulated over the years show evidence that the affair has been a “set-up”, and that the whole case against Cassez – who is currently serving a 60-year prison sentence for kidnap – should be dropped.

The first real breakthrough occurred in April this year when Mexican police admitted that the arrest – as beamed around the world on TV screens – was a re-enactment for the benefit of the media, while the real arrest took place a day before.

Then, in June, a man who gave key testimony against Cassez revealed that his statements had been obtained under duress.

The 34-year-old Frenchwoman was originally arrested at a ranch where three kidnapping victims were being held. Cassez has always maintained her innocence. She claims her only link to the case is that she was the girlfriend of the lead kidnapper, Israel Vallarta.

For Cassez’s lawyer Frank Breton, the inquiry represents a “great step forward” and will help build a “strong” case, which is set to be brought before the Mexican Supreme Court in August.

According to Breton, the police inquiry backs up their argument that the whole arrest was “staged since the beginning”.

According to Cassez’s mother, even though the latest revelation was a “small step forward”, she is “very happy to see that those around the case are still searching for the truth”.

The Mexican government has repeatedly denied all requests to extradite Cassez to France.

MEXICAN SAID HE LIED IN CASE OF JAILED FRENCH WOMAN (June, 2010)

A key witness whose statements helped convict French national Florence Cassez on charges she led a kidnapping ring, later retracted the testimony, which he said had been obtained “by means of torture,” court documents showed Thursday.

David Orozco, who was arrested for his alleged role in the same kidnapping ring in May 2009, fingered Cassez and her boyfriend, Mexican national Israel Vallarta as the leaders of the operation.

Largely because of Orozco’s testimony, Cassez was sentenced to a 60-year prison term. But court records obtained by AFP showed that Orozco in July 2009 told a judge that the statement against Cassez had been obtained “by means of torture.”

The document signed by Judge Eduardo Javier Saenz Hernandez showed that Orozco told the judge he never met Cassez or Vallarta, and denied belonging to the gang of kidnappers — contrary to his public pronouncements, which were widely broadcast on Mexican television.

“I didn’t do it, I don’t know those people,” read Orozco’s statement to the judge, according to the documents.

Cassez, who insists she is innocent, was convicted of the crime and is currently serving a 60-year prison sentence in Mexico

Orozco, who said he also is innocent of the kidnapping charges, claims he is an honest businessman who was kidnapped by masked gunmen who turned out to be police officers.

He said he was beaten and electrocuted, and said the gunmen threatened to kidnap his wife and son before making him issue the televised statement.

“They started to tell me what they wanted me to say, and gave me the names of Israel Vallarta and the French woman,” according to his testimony as it appears in court documents.

Cassez, who is in her mid-30s, was arrested in December 2005 at a home where several kidnap victims were found. She was later convicted of participating in kidnappings with Vallarta, who admitted taking part in the crimes, but claims Cassez is innocent.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is pressing for Cassez to return to France to serve out her sentence near her parents, but Mexican President Felipe Calderon has rejected the possibility of her repatriation.

POLICE ADMIT ARREST OF FRENCHWOMAN FLORENCE CASSEZ WAS STAGED (April, 2010)

France 24

Mexican police have admitted that Florence Cassez, a Frenchwoman serving a 60-year prison sentence for kidnapping in Mexico, was already in custody when she was arrested in front of TV cameras.

By Guillaume LOIRET (text)

Mexican police have revealed that they staged the arrest of Florence Cassez, a Frenchwoman convicted of kidnapping and currently serving a 60-year prison sentence in Mexico. Cassez, who has maintained her innocence since the start of the affair, was in fact already in custody when the police led the press to believe that her arrest, on December 9, 2005, was being made live in front of cameras.

FRANCE 24 asked Patice Gouy, RFI correspondent in Mexico for 30 years, to shed some light on the matter.

What was the point of staging this arrest?

Patrice Gouy: You have to put the staged arrest in the context of the moment: Florence Cassez’s arrest in December 2005 took place at a time when kidnappings were a major problem for the Mexican police. With roughly 500 kidnappings per year, authorities felt the need to make an example out of someone, and the case of Florence Cassez landed at the right time. The case allowed them to “prove” that gangs were becoming more and more international, and Mexican authorities felt that French consular officials in Mexico would not react firmly.

Could this revelation of a document from the Mexican Ministry of Justice admitting the staged arrest become an exit strategy for Florence Cassez?

P.G.: In any case, it’s the beginning of a solution. On the one hand, the document, which exists since 2007 and should have been submitted for the Frenchwoman’s appeal trial, proves the Mexican justice system’s lack of trustworthiness in a case already containing several inconsistencies and gaps in information. It also allows Cassez’s defense team to appeal the sentence before the Supreme Court and even to directly file a complaint against the Mexican police for falsification of documents. The way out for Cassez could ultimately be a trial in a final court of appeal, but for that she’d have to wait until President Felipe Calderon’s term ends (in 2012) and new judges are named.

Could this latest twist alter the opinion of Mexicans, who have been largely convinced of Cassez’s guilt?

P.G.: Calderon was in favour of Florence Cassez’s release, but in a country as nationalistic as Mexico it was out of the question to drop the case before the presidential election in 2006. Despite a shaky case, Mexicans were disgusted with all the kidnapping incidents and would not have understood a decision to let this one go. But today, things are different. This document [revealing the staged arrest] could initiate a shift in public opinion, and that’s where the role of the press will be essential. The Mexican press is traditionally very cautious, and even more so on television, but if the media switches sides in this case they can move public opinion toward a recognition of Florence Cassez’s innocence.

Equisy, By Gabriel Infante Carrillo

“Personally, I doubt very much that there are fellow citizens by pure malevolence are ranting against the country, but what I can say with all certainty, is that there are many Mexicans upset that criticized the poor performance and polices of Felipe Calderon …”

President Felipe Calderon in the past weeks recriminated the media for giving a lot of attention regarding to the violent acts committed by members of the drug cartels, especially for publishing in front page photographs of banners with drug gang’s messages, in which he imply that the criminals paid the press to published it. Not just the media were target of criticism, but also to those citizens that speaks against the country. According to him, this has caused a negative perception of the image of Mexico to the foreigners, which he considers that it has been “over exaggerated” the violence and insecurity situation of the country, affecting the tourist sector and driving away investments.

There are two points that must be left clear to president Calderon; first, the role of the media and journalist is to inform the national events and everything that affects both direct or indirect way to the citizens. The exponential increase of the violence cause by clashes between the drug gangs and the army, were civilians alien to the conflict have been affected, therefore it’s of the public interest. I don’t know what does it say to Felipe Calderon 1,130 people killed in march throughout the country due to the drug violence, but we have to point out that in this figure is included the two students of ITESM university in Monterrey; three people linked to the U.S Consulate Office in Ciudad Juarez; ten persons, of which 7 were minors, were riddle with bullets
on board a van in Durango, among others cases. That’s exaggerating the reality? The events talk for themselves.

Secondly, say that Mexicans go around talking rubbish about the country is simply subjective. Personally, I doubt very much that there are fellow citizens by pure malevolence are ranting against the country, but what I can say with all certainty, is that there are
many Mexicans upset that criticized the poor performance and polices of Felipe Calderon in all areas, not just in the security issue. Is that speaking badly about the country? Does it makes you anti-patriotic for questioning and pointing out things that are not going in the right track for the country? Is it a crime to aspire for a much better country?

In any case, the only culprit of the bad image that the country has is Felipe Calderon, that in a irresponsible way and for political motivation launches a war without a well trace strategy and not considering the consequence that this would bring. I don’t have any doubts, that this “face to face” fight against the organized crime was thought from the very beginning for the media, for everyone to see it. Once again Mr. president disclaim his errors and blames others.

The deteriorate image of Mexico is not just due to the drug violence, but also the already dishonorable reputation of corruption that exists in all levels of the State; human right violations and an incompetence and impartial judicial system that guide itself for pure political motives instead of applying the law and the Constitution to achieve just that, justice and rule of law. To have incriminated and sentence a foreigner of French nationality, Florence Cassez, of kidnapping based on lies and manipulation, put in evidence before the French society the deplorable quality of the Mexican democracy and justice, and this was demonstrated in the journalistic work of French journalists, Alain Devalpo and Anne Vigna in their book “Peines mexicaines: Florence Cassez, Jacinta, Ignacio et autres” and in Mexico is titled “Fábrica de culpables: Florence Cassez y otros casos de la injusticia  mexicana” (Factory of culprits: Florence Cassez and other cases of Mexican injustice). That’s how Calderon expects that the image of the country will improve abroad? The only thing that he shows is that he doesn’t have a bit of a statesman, but with his
recrimination just denotes how pretentious and megalomaniac he is. He is not Mexico!

Spanish version

FRANCE WARNS MEXICO OVER JAILED NATIONAL (February, 2010)

Worldnews, By John Irish

PARIS (Reuters) – France warned Mexico on Thursday that a decision to keep Frenchwoman Florence Cassez in a Mexican prison for her involvement in a kidnapping she denies would weigh on bilateral relations.

Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the rejection of an appeal that could have seen Cassez freed was a “denial of justice.”

Cassez, 36, has served five years of a 60-year prison sentence after being arrested in 2005 with her Mexican boyfriend in a dramatic police swoop — controversially re-staged for television cameras — at a ranch where three people, including a young girl, were being held hostage.

She denied any involvement and received widespread sympathy in France after being handed a 96-year jail term in a case that has gripped French media.

Her term was trimmed to 60 years after President Nicolas Sarkozy, who spoke to her by telephone, brought up the case with Mexican President Felipe Calderon during a 2009 visit.

“I am appalled by the court’s decision to back the judge’s decision on Florence Cassez,” Alliot-Marie said in a statement.

“This decision will weigh on our bilateral relations.”

Kidnapping is rampant in Mexico, a country in the grip of ruthless drug trafficking and organised crime groups, and victims are often murdered even after ransoms are paid.

Cassez’s lawyer in Mexico, Agustin Acosta, said the next step could be with the International Court of Human Rights.

“Obviously she is very upset, very worried, the length of her sentence weighs more all the time. I am also very disappointed, but I am in the street,” he said.

Alliot-Marie, who has fought calls for her resignation this month following a series of blunders, said France would do everything to try and get Cassez released.

(Additional reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez and Isabel de Bertodano; writing by Catherine Bremer; editing by Andrew Roche)

ILLEGALITY, MEXICO’S WAY TO FIGHT CRIME  (november, 2009)

Equisy, By Gabriel Infante Carrillo

“According to Miss Cassez judicial statement, during the hours of her illegal detention and before the fake police operation pulled of by the Federal Investigation Agency  for the media; she states that she was mistreated, humiliated and denigrated with sexual obscene language”.
In the past few days, events related to the Mexican justice has figure front page and main headlines in the  Mexican media. First we were shocked after viewing a video recorded on a mobile phone and uploaded on Youtube, of five teenagers being tortured and sexual humiliated after they were caught stealing a house in Tepic, the capital city of the state of Nayarit. Then Juchitepec, a rural town in the State of Mexico, an angry mob detained and tried to lynch four allegedly kidnappers. But what brought more attention to the media was the premature announcement of Mauricio Fernandez Garza, the new mayor of the richest municipality of the country, San Pedro Garza Garcia — located in the outskirts of Monterrey, the capital city of the state of Nuevo Leon— of the murdered in Mexico City of Hector “El Negro” Saldaña, a drug trafficker and a kidnapper. Also he pointed out that he will take legal action beyond his competence to fight the organize crime within his municipality by creating a sort of a paramilitary group. This created a huge fuss among the government officials and his own party, the ruling party: The National Action Party (PAN). Its president and congressman, Cesar Nava, pointed out that: “we can’t fight illegality with illegality”.The statement of Cesar Nava, brings me back to Florence Cassez’s case; the Frenchwomen accused of kidnapping and sentence to 60 years in prison and became a national debate marked by the first official visit of French president, Nicolas Sarkozy back in
March. During the previous days of his arrival with the first lady, Carla Bruni; the Mexican society, driven by civil organizations, condemn Florence Cassez and discredited completely her side of the story, without questioning a bit the flaws in the judicial process. Beginning with the way she was detained and held hostage instead of taking her to the General Attorney’s Offices to begin the judicial process as marked by the law. According to Miss Cassez judicial statement, during the hours of her illegal detention and before the fake police operation pulled of by the Federal Investigation Agency for the media; she states that she was mistreated, humiliated and denigrated with sexual obscene language. As far as I know, this was never investigated. We don’t have to be an expert in criminal justice to get to the conclusion that the federal police committed a series of crimes and acted outlaw. As I see it, this case by no means was a fair trail nor a matter to do justice; it was clearly a political issue. In one hand, president Sarkozy was hoping to negotiate with the Mexican government to transfer Florence Cassez to a French prison. In the other hand,
President Calderon was being pressured by Isabel Miranda de Wallece, an activist in pro kidnapping victims and the main detractor of Florence Cassez, and also the country was few months away to begin midterm election’s campaigns. If he would have accepted to transfer Miss Cassez or even begin to negotiate with President Sarkozy, this would definitely put his presidency in more difficulty, in midst of a society fed up with the lack of results on the most urgent national affairs, especially security, which is a extremely sensitive issue.

Cesar Nava’s statement contradicts completely with the way the government enforce the law. In my view, the statement was to reinsure to the society the government’s “false discourse” that Mexico is a rule of law country, and most of all not to show  weakness in the eyes of its detractors, who consider that the government has been overtaken by the organize crime.

Recently, the first lady, Margarita Zavala stated that “the fear of the society feeds impunity and doesn’t allow the authorities to act”. In other words, while the society doesn’t denounce, the authority can’t fight crime. This reaffirms that Mexicans not just mistrusts the authorities, but they fear them as well; but in the eyes of the first lady, the citizens are to blame for the increase of violence and crime in the country. While the government don’t realize that they are the problem, injustice and violations of human rights will prevail, and more cases like Florence Cassez or the society taking justice into their own hands, will be more common in a increasingly Mexico’s social unrest.

LINKS BETWEEN MEXICAN SECURITY SECRETARY GARCIA LUNA AND DRUG KINGPIN EL MAYO (November, 2008)

Proceso, By Ricardo Ravelo

Translation from the original Spanish and notes by Kristin Bricker

 

Federal police say Garcia Luna’s bodyguards witnessed the head of Mexico’s Public Security Ministry discuss an “agreement” with a drug cartel gangster

The Secretary of Public Security, Genaro Garcia Luna, who is considered untouchable and Felipe Calderon’s “spoiled official,” has maintained numerous public officials accused of having links to drug traffickers–El Mayo Zamabada in particular–in his inner circle.  An investigation carried out by agents who are opposed to the proposed police integration[1] assure in a letter sent to Congress, which Proceso has a copy of, that this past October numerous armed men intercepted Garcia Luna on a highway and disarmed members of his escort while a gangster warned him, “This is the first and last warning so that you know that, yes, we can get to you if you don’t follow through on the pact…”  The document adds that then Garcia Luna withdrew from the spot for four hours in order to negotiate with the gangster…

With his powerful tentacles and his ability to corrupt police and infiltrate the institutions responsible for combatting drug trafficking–including the National Defense Department–, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia has extensive control within the Public Security Ministry (SSP in its Spanish initials), which is led by Genaro Garcia Luna, whose main collaborators–some of them currently held under administrative detention–are accused of being at the service of the man who today is considered to be the top boss of the Sinaloa cartel.

The owner of estates and ranches, untouchable in Sinaloa–his stronghold–, Zambada Garcia has broad networks of complicity at his disposal in the most important departments in the PGR [Federal Attorney General’s Office], such as the SIEDO [the Assistant Attorney General’s Office for Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime], and in the SSP, where various top-level officials are being investigated for serving the gangster who, following the example of Amado Carrillo[2]–who for many years was his business partner–, transformed his appearance with plastic surgery.

Also untouchable and considered to be President Felipe Calderon’s “spoiled official,” Garcia Luna doesn’t appear to escape the networks that Zambada Garcia and the Beltran Leyva brothers created in the SSP.  The Beltran Leyva brothers left the Sinaloa cartel following a division sparked by the aprehension of Alfredo “El Mochomo” Beltran this past January.

Police who are opposed to the federal police unification project carried out an investigation regarding the alleged ties between Garcia Luna and Zambada Garcia’s and Arturo “El Barbas” Beltran Leyva’s cells.

In a field investigation, backed up by records and revelations that were supposedly made by Garcia Luna’s own body guards, the police agents reconstructed an episode that occurred this past October 19 in Morelos state, which they recount in a letter sent to the Chamber of Deputies [Mexico’s lower house of Congress] and the Senate with the goal of demonstrating, according to the agents, the danger that granting more power to the SSP would entail.  They assert that a significant number of SSP police commanders are working for drug traffickers.

The document details:

…This past October 19 (…) the current Federal Secretary of Public Security, Genaro Garcia Luna and his escort, comprised of approximately 27 agents, (…) was intercepted or summoned on the Cuernavaca-Tepoztlan highway by a high-ranking gangster who was accompanied by an undetermined number of shooters or hitmen in approximately 10 armored Suburbans.  Said official’s escort did nothing to protect him, apparently due to a verbal order from him (Garcia Luna).

The letter that is now in the hands of legislators–a copy was delivered to Proceso–adds that members of Garcia Luna’s escort, under orders “from the high ranking drug gangster,” were disarmed and blindfolded for “approximately four hours.”
The agents who are familiar with the incident, and whose names are omitted for fear of reprisals, state in the document that the “gangster’s” voice said to Garcia Luna: “This is the first and last warning so that you know that, yes, we can get to you if you don’t follow through on the pact.”
The document asserts that, after the gangster’s statement, Garcia Luna retreated, “leaving his escorts to their own luck, without knowing the route he took or what he did during those four long hours, time in which he could talk in a more comfortable place away from the spot where the alleged incident occurred.”

And, in another point, the letter says:

It shouldn’t go unnoticed that the Secretary in question is an expert actor in deceit.  It should be remembered that in the past he created a circus around a kidnapping in Ajusco in Mexico City in which a French woman was supposedly involved, where he summoned the televised media and (…) manipulated all of his bodyguards, making them believe that what happened was a drug gangster’s attempt to intimidate (a levanton or drug-related kidnapping), though the truth is that it was a meeting arranged by this alleged gangster.

According to investigations carried out by the Assistant Attorney General’s Office for Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime (SIEDO), a good number of the officials closest to Garcia Luna appear to be contaminated by drug trafficking.  Evidence that the SSP is one of the institutions most infiltrated by the Sinaloa cartel and other illicit organizations has arisen since the Vicente Fox adminstration, and even more under the current administration.

For example, Édgar Enrique Bayardo del Villar, ex-inspector assigned to the Federal Preventive Police’s Operations Section, was taken into custody by the SIEDO for allegedly serving Zambada Garcia.  Close to Garcia Luna, with a salary no higher than MX$26,000 monthly [at the time approximately USD$2,600], Enrique Bayardo rose out of poverty to achieve a magnificent wealth.

According to the investigation of the facts, in which PFP agents Jorge Cruz Méndez and Fidel Hernández are also implicated, Bayardo del Villar today owns two residences with a combined value of close to 9 million pesos.

Overnight, Bayardo del Villar broke out of his financial difficulties and bought himself BMW, aMercedes Benz, and an armored Cherokee.  He spent 12 million pesos on these acquisitions and, just like his residences, he paid for them in cash.

Another piece of this network that is presumably at the service of the brothers Jesús and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada–within Garcia Luna’s inner circle of trust–is Gerardo Garay Cadena, ex-commissioner of the PFP, who this past November 1 resigned from his position to voluntarily put himself “at the disposal of the authorities,” although the SIEDO immediately put him under administrative detention.  During the inquiries the spotlight also fell on other officials linked to Garay Cadena.  One of them is Francisco Navarro, chief of the SSP’s Special Operations, with broad control over the Mexico City International Airport, known as one of the major operations centers where drugs come in and drug trafficking money goes out.

Within this group that, according to the PGR, protected El Mayo Zambada, Luis Cárdenas Palominos also appears.  Known as Garcia Luna’s “right hand man,” he wasn’t put under administrative detention but he keeps being called to make statements to the SIEDO.  Other high-ranking SSP and PFP officials who are held under administrative detention are Jorge Cruz Méndez and Fidel Hernández García.

The statement delivered to the federal Congress, in particular to the Security and Justice commissions–where the project to unify the federal police is being pushed, which is said will be resolved this year–, the AFI agents assert that Garcia Luna is incorporating personnel into the PFP and the SSP who have criminal records and ties to organized crime.

In the majority of the cases, they warn about inexperience and improvisation in investigations related to organized crime activity that, according to Edgardo Buscaglia, an investigator with the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM), constitute a range of 25 crimes such as drug trafficking, contraband, kidnapping, and human trafficking.

In their statement, the agents tackle the corruption and disorder that run rampant in Garcia Luna’s agency.  They say that personnel called to leave the AFI [which Garcia Luna used to run] and join the Federal Police [which Garcia Luna now runs as head of the SSP] have not completed four years of police duty and that priority is given to those who come recommended or who are supporters of high-ranking officials, as well as “high-ranking officials’ friends and lovers.”

A number of the agents’ statements and warnings can be confirmed even in recent incidents.  For example, two days after Gerardo Garay’s resigniation, on November 3, Garcia Luna named Rodrigo Esparza Cisterna as acting commissioner of the PFP.  Esparza Cisterna has a history that is as long as it is shady.

In 1993, when Rodrigo Esparza was a PGR delegate in Sinaloa, the first rumblings surfaced over his alleged relationship with Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, then a bitter rival of the Arellano Félix brothers, the bosses of the Tijuana cartel.

According to the official memo DGPDSC/UEA/1938/2005, dated August 12, 2005, and obtained through a request to the Federal Institute for Access to Information (record number 0001700181305), Esparza was accused of impeding the administration of justice.   Said accusation was registered in the criminal proceeding 159/93, which came out of the criminal investigation 3423/93.  On June 28, 1993, the charges were accepted by the Third Criminal Court in the Ramo District in Mexico City, and later he was imprisoned awaiting trial.

His detention was revoked on August 23, 1993, via judicial tricks.  In less than three months, Esparza saw the investigation into his alleged wrongdoings buried with a stay of proceedings in his case.  This precedent notwithstanding, Rodrigo Esparza is now Garcia Luna’s right hand man in the PFP.
A Portrait of Power

El Mayo Zambada was chubby and round-faced, but one day Vicente and Amado Carrillo, who underwent plastic surgery in the Santa Monica clinic in Mexico City–the clinic where Amado Carrillo died in 1997–, suggested that he change his appearance and he accepted.

Zambada lost weight and made his cheeks smaller.  His face became more chiseled and a bit elongated thanks to the face lift.  When Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos[3] was head of the SIEDO, federal agents found, during a search of one of his multiple properties, a photograph where Zambada Garcia looked rejuvenated and slender.  The photo was saved in the files related to the Juarez cartel, the organization that El Mayo belonged to.  Untouchable for decades, Ismael Zambada has demonstrated his power and ability to increasingly infiltrate government institutions during the Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, and Felipe Calderon administrations: over 35 Federal District Attorney agents assigned to the SIEDO were his employees, and each one received USD$350,000-$400,000 monthly for leaking information about case files and preliminary investigations in progress against members of his organization.  During Vicente Fox’s term, the Sinaloa cartel even infiltrated the National Defense Department (Sedena), where, through Arturo “El Chaky” Gonzalez Hernandez, various high-ranking military officials who operated the telecommunications systems were coopted.  They advised him in advance that in a matter of days or hours military operations would be carried out.

Moreover, El Mayo Zambada had control of the Sinaloa police, and high-ranking military commanders looked after his personal safety and his businesses.  The impunity and power were of such a magnitude that in December 2005 at the El Mezquite ranch, a Christmas party was organized.  The band Ilusion provided the entertainment.  Zambada Garcia attended the party.  Rivers of alcohol flowed, strong doses of cocaine were distributed, and shots were fired into the air.

This drew the attention of a sector of the Mexican military stationed in Sinaloa, which requested a search warrant in order to enter the ranch.  Due to the fact that–rather unusually–it took hours to issue the warrant, Zambada Garcia had time to leave the site, which was protected by police, and calmly go to his hideout, a fortress whose entrances and sidewalks are permanently guarded by his people.

In May 2007, the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control published a report that six companies and twelve people in Mexico are part of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada’s financial network.

The US report indicates that Zambada’s ex-wife, Rosario Niebla Cardoza, was well as his four daughters–Maria Teresa, Miriam Patricia, Monica del Rosario, and Modesta Zambada Niebla–play a key role in El Mayo’s dirty businesses.  They carry out an important function in the gangster’s “property and control of his companies.”

After the falling out between the Beltran Leyva brothers and “El Chapo” Guzman, the Sinaloa cartel–at its peak it was perhaps the most powerful criminal organization in Latin America–suffered a reduction in power, but it hasn’t been brought down completely.

According to information from the SSP and the PGR, the Beltrans extended their tentacles: they penetrated the SIEDO, the PGR, and a good part of the military’s regional commands, in addition to allying themselves with Los Zetas[4] and the Juarez cartel, whose current boss is Vicente “El Viceroy” Carrillo.

Zambada Garcia and Joaquin Guzman have maintained their alliance, and Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel[5] and the Cazares Salazar brothers[6] are also a part of this group.[7]

This drug clan suffered a loss recently: this past October 17, Jesus “El Rey” Zambada Garcia, El Mayo’s brother who had a reputation for being discrete, was detained in Mexico City.  Up until 2007, Jesus Zambada was not considered a kingpin–not even by United States intelligence agencies–, but after his capture Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora described him as one of the most important people in El Mayo Zambada’s money laundering network.

Another event alluded to the true power of El Rey Zambada: in Culiacan, Sinaloa, a banner was hung near the state Congress that shot down the thesis that Jesus Zambada Garcia was a small-time player.  The banner said:

Chapo Guzman, they kill your son and you keeping being murderers’ friends.  Don’t be ashamed; how Nachito Coronel has changed you.  He bosses you around to his liking and all because he takes care of you.  Intelligent El Rey Zambada: you are killing counties, states, and ministerial cabinets, and he is unloading ephedrine and cocaine in the Mexico City airport.

In October–the month in which Garcia Luna was supposedly intercepted in Morelos, according to the agents’ statement–, the blows against El Mayo Zambada’s organization worsened.  The Quinta La Paloma and Los Alpes ranches in Acaxochitlan, Hidalgo, were searched by federal police.  The SIEDO said the properties belonged to El Rey Zambada.

El Mayo Zambada received a financial blow on September 18 when USD$26 million was seized–money which he had hidden in a safe house, carefully stacked in egg boxes.

Despite the blows against the Sinaloa cartel and notwithstanding the division that it suffered with its separation from the Beltran brothers, the organization continues afloat in drug trafficking: it controls sea ports and airports, and it has allies in high levels within the SSP who, according to the missive sent by federal police to Congress, “are obligated to follow through on the pacts.”
Notes:
[1]  The Mexican government has proposed combining the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI in its Spanish initials) with the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) under a single command: that of the SSP.  The AFI is currently the Federal Attorney General’s (PGR’s) police force and was founded to be an investigative police force.  The PFP, on the other hand, is the Public Security Secretary’s police force.  It aims to “prevent crimes” and is more militarized than other police forces.  Over 150 agents from the PFP and AFI hit the streets in September in protest of the plan, arguing that it would give more control to Garcia Luna and the corruption-ridden SSP.
[2] Amado Carrillo Fuentes led the Juarez cartel along with other family members.  Carrillo Fuentes died in 1997 during a plastic surgery operation that was intended to change his appearance.  The doctors alleged to have botched the operation, Dr. Jaime Godoy Singh, Dr. Ricardo Reyes Rincón, and Dr. Carlos Humberto Avila Melgem, were widely reported to have been brutally tortured, murdered, and partially entombed in cement-filled oil drums.  The PGR had charged the doctors with murdered Carrillo Fuentes, claiming that they should have known that administering the sleeping drug Dormicum would have killed him due to his liver problems.  However, there are rumors that Dr. Rincón, also known as Pedro López Saucedo and Pedro Rincón, is alive and residing in the United States under the witness protection program in exchange for information about the Juarez cartel.  The Washington Post reported that Dr. Rincón knew Carrillo Fuentes and had operated on many of his friends.  “Rincón” means “secluded corner” in Spanish and may have alluded to his status as a back-alley doctor.
[3] Vasconcelos died in the November 4, 2008, plane crash that also killed Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mouriño, three other government officials, three crew members, and six people who were on the ground when the plane hit Mexico City’s financial district.  The official explanation for the crash was that the pilot followed a Mexicana commercial airliner too closely and the resulting turbulence downed the plane.
[4] Los Zetas was a specialized unit of the Mexican military that received training in the US School of the Americas.  After completing their US taxpayer-funded training, they defected from the military en masse and became drug cartels’ armed thugs.  They’ve been accused of running their own drugs, too.
[5] Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel is known as the “King of Crystal” because he dominates the crystal meth market.  He is also alleged to move cocaine and run the Sinaloa cartel’s finances.
[6] Blanca Margarita Cazares Salazar has been identified as being in charge of the Sinaloa cartel’s money laundering operation.
[7] In previous publicaitons, Ricardo Ravelo has described the Sinaloa cartel has having a “rectangular” structure with numerous cells, as opposed to a top-down “pyramid” headed by one person.  This makes the cartel more flexible and adaptable, and less vulnerable to operations that aim to pick off its leaders.  Zambada Garcia, Guzman Loera, Coronel, and the Cazares Salazar family have all been identified by the US government as Sinaloa cartel leaders, and all appear on the US government’s “Foreign Narcotics Kingpins” list.

Advertisements
Leave a comment

3 Comments

  1. Great article, you just missed that Genaro Garcia Luna knew about Fernando Martis son.

    Reply
    • You’re totally right Adriana. We’re also investigating the Marti case also. He did not only know. One of Garcia Luna’s fellow co-workers (Lore) is directly involved in Marti’s son’s kidnapping and murder. On the other hand, there are indeed strong connections between Garcia Luna and the PRI party.

      Reply
  2. and he didnt say any thing. He is covering Enrique Peña Nieto too.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: