Valérie Trierweiler may have learned painful lessons from the high-profile flaps she’s created since becoming France’s First Lady, but those aren’t preventing President François Hollande’s partner from action that could provoke additional kafuffles. That became clear with revelations Trierweiler used diplomatic channels to send a care package to a young French woman imprisoned in Mexico for kidnapping charges that both the prisoner—and Paris—maintain were trumped up.
The news was revealed by French daily le Parisien, which reported Oct. 8 that Trierweiler had sent a package containing chocolates, books, and cosmetics to Florence Cassez, 37, who is serving a 60 year prison sentence in Mexico. Cassez was convicted for participation in a 2005 gang kidnapping she claims she wasn’t involved in. Evidence of police manipulation and serious judicial error in the case has generated considerable support for Cassez in France and Mexico alike. A 2011 offensive led by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy to get Cassez a retrial led to a major diplomatic row between Paris and Mexico City. Given that troubling precedent—and the repeated failure of Mexico’s Supreme Court to cite questionable evidence and suspicious actions by police officials as grounds for overturning the conviction—Trierweiler’s gesture in the explosive case has drawn considerable attention.
But it also raised some eyebrows—especially considering the difficulty Trierweiler had in extricating herself from the mess she created with an ill-advised tweet that rocked Hollande’s political and biological family. That storm broke out during June’s legislative polling, when Trierweiler aired support for a leftist rival running against the official Socialist Party candidate—and mother of Hollande’s four children—Ségolène Royal. Royal lost that election, Socialist officials fumed, Hollande’s children declared they’d have nothing to do their mother’s enemy, and the global media had a field day picking over the damage Trierweiler created with her jealous swipe at her man’s ex-squeeze. It was hardly an auspicious start to a presidency Hollande pledged would contrast Sarkozy’s controversial, confrontational, and over-personalized reign.
Despite the terrible press and prolonged attention the affair got, it took until October before Trierweiler’s temper had cooled enough to publicly admit she’d made “a mistake that I regret” with her tweet. In doing so, Trierweiler also acknowledged she’d failed to appreciate that she, as French First Lady, is “no longer a simple citizen” who can speak her mind or take stands without thinking through the possible consequences. For that reason, it’s probable Trierweiler checked with and got the green light from the Elysée before making a gesture to Cassez that Mexico may well resent.
But the risk of a hostile Mexican reaction may also be why Trierweiler decided to show her support for Cassez with chocolate, rather than through an eternally archived social media. When flirting with potential controversy, your best way out of trouble is eating it, rather than tweeting it.