A Cause Célèbre Clouds Mexican Sentiment on Kidnapping Scourge

The New York Times, 4/8/2009

Three years ago, morning news programs here broadcast the arrest of a Frenchwoman and her Mexican boyfriend in a police raid that rescued three kidnapping victims from the ranch the couple shared.

The woman, Florence Cassez, was convicted of kidnapping and other crimes and was eventually sentenced to 60 years in jail. Case closed, it would seem.

But through it all, Ms. Cassez, 34, has maintained her innocence. Her boyfriend, Israel Vallarta, who confessed, said she knew nothing. And the television images of police officers storming the ranch? The raid turned out to have been staged the day after the couple was arrested and the hostages released.

“In a general climate of impunity, society becomes very conservative,” said Guillermo Zepeda, a security expert at the Center of Research for Development, a Mexico City policy group. “They want the few cases that are resolved to be exemplary.”

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