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Sarkozy seeking business and prisoner amnesty

Video by Melissa BELL

Latest update : 2010-02-05

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is visiting Mexico on a mission to boost trade with the Central American country. He will also plead the case of Frenchwoman Florence Cassez (pictured) who is languishing in a Mexican jail on kidnap charges.

AFP - French President Nicolas Sarkozy starts his first official visit to Mexico Sunday, focusing on the global economic crisis and the case of a Frenchwoman jailed on kidnapping charges.
   
Sarkozy is also expected to sign agreements to build a vaccine plant, install security cameras in the Mexican capital and sell helicopters.
   
Much of the talks with Mexico's President Felipe Calderon will be on the Group of 20 summit of industrial and developing nations in London on April 2.
   
Calderon has said Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel could help mitigate the global financial crisis, adding that "the broken global and financial system, especially in the US," must be repaired.
   
The London meeting "must make a firm and prompt determination" to overcome this challenge because "it is difficult to see an end to the financial crisis," Calderon said in an interview with AFP Wednesday.
   
There is much attention in France on Florence Cassez, a 34-year-old who has been sentenced to 60 years in prison for her role in a kidnapping gang. Calderon has not ruled out letting the woman serve her sentence in France.
   
Cassez's appeal was thrown out by a Mexican court on Tuesday and Calderon insisted that the evidence presented against the woman was valid.
   
She was arrested in December 2005 at the home of her Mexican boyfriend, alleged gangster Israel Vallarta, where police found several kidnap victims being held for ransom, including an eight-year-old child. Cassez has already served three years in prison.
   
Sarkozy met with the Frenchwoman's father, Bernard Cassez, and her lawyer, Franck Berton, who said "the French authorities have assured that they are treating the case with utmost care." Bernard Cassez has urged Sarkozy to petition Calderon to grant an amnesty.
   
On the trade front, Mexico has expressed interest in diversifying its export destinations, because 80 percent of its exported products go to the crisis-battered United States.
   
Mexico is France's fourth-largest partner in the Americas after the United States, Brazil and Canada, with trade worth 2.66 billion euros (3.36 billion dollars) according to 2006 figures.
   
Some 300 French firms are established in Mexico employing some 80,000 people.
   
Late Sunday, Sarkozy and Calderon will dine with their wives.
   
After meeting with Calderon and signing agreements on Monday, Sarkozy will make a protocol visit to the Mexican Senate, meet with business people and the French community, then dine with Calderon.
   
Ahead of Sarkozy's arrival, French immigration minister Eric Besson visited a California section of the US-Mexican border to examine the fence and other issues related to immigration in this part of the world.
   
The minister, who toured the San Diego-Tijuana border area, said in California on Saturday that officials on the Mexican side had pleaded for freer movement.
   
"Their thesis is that they want to do everything to encourage movement of people into US territory and their return to Mexico," Besson said. "That was even more interesting to me because we are trying to promote what could be circulatory immigration in France and in Europe."
   
Drug-related violence along the US-Mexican border claimed at least 5,300 lives last year as well-financed cartels orchestrated a campaign of intimidation and kidnappings.
 

Date created : 2009-03-08

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