Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who took a major blow this week with the dazzling prison escape of drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, found little respite from his woes overseas. French leftists protested Peña Nieto’s visit to Paris this week, criticizing violence and corruption in Mexico and declaring the president unwelcome in the country.
French President Francois Hollande had invited Peña Nieto to Tuesday's Bastille Day celebration in Paris, but the Mexican president was met by French demonstrators who opposed his presence in the country. “France cannot invite a president whose hands are stained with blood,” one protester shouted, according to a report by Mexico’s Proceso magazine.
The Left Front, a French radical leftist party, and the French Communist Party both openly condemned Peña Nieto’s visit, which began July 11 and ends Thursday. “The French government is a disgrace to Mexicans and French people, rolling out the red carpet for that person,” the Left Front said in a statement issued Sunday that also declared Peña Nieto persona non grata. National Secretary Alexis Corbiere tweeted Tuesday that the president's invitation to Bastille Day celebrations was an "insult to Mexican victims whose families await justice."
L'invitation de Pena Nieto le 14 juillet est une insulte aux victimes mexicaines dont les familles attendent justice http://t.co/dn8pJsccli
— Corbiere Alexis (@alexiscorbiere) July 14, 2015
Peña Nieto has struggled to recover from fallout over the kidnapping and presumed killing of 43 students last September in the southern state of Guerrero. According to the federal government’s prevailing theory, local police attacked the students and handed them off to a drug gang on the orders of the town mayor, who feared the students would disrupt a speech his wife was giving that day. The incident shined a harsh spotlight on the nexus between politics and organized crime in Mexico and brought Peña Nieto’s approval ratings down to their lowest levels.
“The presence of Peña Nieto is a hard blow to families of the 43 students disappeared in September, as a gesture of contempt toward all those who fight against the reign of impunity, corruption, violence and for the rule of law to finally become a reality in Mexico,” the French Communist Party said in a statement.
The president’s France trip had already been marred by news of El Chapo’s escape from prison Sunday. The capture of the drug lord had been a hallmark of Peña Nieto’s presidency, and Chapo’s escape through an elaborate tunnel from his Mexican prison marked the second time he had broken out of prison. Peña Nieto addressed the escape Sunday, assuring that security officials were already on the hunt for the kingpin. “This represents, without a doubt, an affront to the Mexican state, but I trust that the Mexican institutions in charge, specifically those in charge of public security, have the strength and determination to reapprehend this criminal,” he said.