France’s former first lady Valérie Trierweiler has drawn attention to a high-profile custody battle involving one of Mexico’s most powerful politicians, at a time when President François Hollande is hoping to mend ties between the two countries.
Trierweiler made a dramatic appeal via Twitter on Wednesday, urging France to use its diplomatic muscle to help Maude Versini, a French publicist fighting to recover her three children from ex-husband Arturo Montiel.
The timing of the tweet from France’s former first lady could not have been more opportune, with President François Hollande arriving in Mexico on a highly-publicised – and already potentially awkward - state visit Thursday morning.
“I support @MaudeVersini who has not seen her 3 children, held by their father in Mexico, for 847 days. We must help her. @francediplo must act,” Trierweiler wrote, referring to the official Twitter account of France’s Foreign Ministry.
In response to Trierweiler’s endorsement, Versini wrote: “I hope that @fhollande [the French president] will do everything possible to find a solution to this intolerable nightmare”.
Trierweiler, 49, has hardly been heard of or seen in public since her dramatic breakup with Hollande in January.
The French president is scheduled to meet with his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Pena Nieto, who is a friend and ally of Arturo Montiel.
Pena Nieto's 'political godfather'
Versini accuses Montiel, the former governor of Mexico State, of kidnapping their children during a Christmas reunion in 2011 and of using his influence to illegally keep them in Mexico.
A divorce proceeding in 2007 awarded Versini custody of the three children, including two twins, aged between 8 and 9. However, a Mexican judge ruled in 2013 that Montiel did not have to hand over the youths to their mother.
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 an interview with French radio Europe 1 on Thursday, Versini described her ex-husband as the “political godfather” of the Mexican president.
“He does not hesitate to use his influential contacts to pay off judges,” Versini said of Montiel. “He’s not scared of anyone and thinks he is above the law.”
Echoes of the Cassez dispute
Trierweiler's intervention in her defence comes at a difficult time for Hollande, who was hoping to use his trip to Mexico to mend ties between the two countries.
Relations between France and Mexico have been strained since the arrest of Frenchwoman Florence Cassez, on charges of kidnapping, in 2005.
France’s Foreign Ministry has not said if Hollande and Pena Nieto will discuss the Versini-Montiel custody battle.
It said the after years of difficulties, the president’s visit was aimed at “re-launching the strategic partnership between the two countries.”
Cassez was initially sentenced to 60 years in prison, and spent seven years behind bars, before her return to France in January 2013. Her release was hailed at home, but angered Mexicans.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-04-10