Freed from prison, Brenda Martin wants to go back to Mexico
The Canadian woman who threatened suicide to get out of a Mexican jail says she misses the beach and would happily return to Mexico if she could.
"I could say right now that if the Mexican government was to give me a pardon, I would go back," Brenda Martin wrote in an article titled I Languished in a Mexican Prison, published online at the social media website Orato.
Martin was accused of being part of a multimillion-dollar internet fraud scheme. She was convicted of money laundering in Mexico earlier this year and sentenced to five years in prison without parole. In addition to the prison sentence, Martin was fined 35,800 pesos, or around $3,180.
Martin spent more than two years in a jail outside Guadalajara before being sentenced — and her imprisonment became a cause célèbre in Canada with thousands of people, including high-profile politicians, taking up her case.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper phoned Mexican President Felipe Calderon in March to discuss the file. Maxime Bernier, at the time the foreign affairs minister, spoke to his Mexican counterpart about Martin. Even former prime minister Paul Martin visited her in prison.
At one point Independent MP Bill Casey said he was mulling over calling for a tourism boycott against one of Canada's largest trading partners to press for Martin's release.
Martin made headlines when she threatened to kill herself and was placed on suicide watch by authorities at the Puente Grande women's prison in Guadalajara.
A friend who visited Martin in jail at the time described her as "mentally unstable, she is physically exhausted, she's emotionally a mess."
Martin, 51, was accused of participating in a $60-million US internet fraud scheme run by Canadian Alyn Richard Waage, who was convicted of fraud in 2005 and is serving a 10-year term in a U.S. prison.
Mexican investigators said Martin, who worked as Waage's chef in Puerto Vallarta for 10 months, accepted a severance package knowing the money came from the scam.
But Martin maintained her innocence, saying she knew nothing of Waage's illegal activities.
In her internet article, Martin complained she was "duped" by Waage.
She also asserted the Mexican lawyers who initially worked for her "robbed $20,000 from my family and friends."
Martin said she could have bought her way out of trouble but "I didn't have the money to bribe my way out of Mexico."
Jailers killed her cats
In describing her incarceration, Martin said she was put in a cell with a convicted child murderer and a kidnapper. Her jailers, she said, killed the feral cats that had become her pets, stomping them with their boots.
During her time in Puente Grande — which one Mexican government official described to CBC News as one of the toughest prisons in Mexico — Martin said she was beaten and robbed.
In April, after pleading guilty to the money laundering charges, Martin was released and allowed to return to Canada to serve her sentence.
The Canadian government loaned Martin the money to pay her $3,180 fine.
The Correctional Service of Canada then chartered a private plane to bring her home — at a reported cost of $82,000.
Martin is currently on parole, living at her mother's home in Trenton, Ont.
Shockingly, Martin wrote, after being repatriated to Canada by federal authorities, her short stay at the Grand Valley Institution for Women, near Kitchener, Ont., made her long for a return to her Mexican jail cell.
She felt "threatened," she wrote, and was ready to go back to the jail her supporters fought so hard to free her from.
"Eight days into the Kitchener, Ont., prison, I was ready to go back to Mexico! I would much rather be in a Mexican prison than a Canadian one," she said.
"I think my 'celebrity status' put me in harm's way in Canada. A lot of the inmates had the attitude, 'You're a convicted felon, just like us; don't think you're going to get any special treatment.' I felt threatened."
Martin said she wants to return to Mexico, "believe it or not. Mexico was my life. I lost the little life that I had. It might not have been a big life; I wasn't rich, I didn't own a home, I didn't own a car, I didn't own a telephone … but I was comfortable. I had the beach."
Under Mexican law, Martin will not be eligible for a visa until after she finishes serving her sentence in 2011.
A spokesperson for the Mexican Embassy in Ottawa told CBC News the embassy is aware of her article but would not have any official comment.