A Canadian woman imprisoned in a Mexican jail says she worries she's become a political pawn now that her plight has garnered international attention.
A distraught Brenda Martin said Thursday her meeting this week with Conservative MPs Jason Kenney and Rick Norlock was a stunt to curry public favour back home.
"It was a photo op for them for political gain, and I am not a political pawn, and I don't care to be a political pawn anymore. My life is at stake," she said in a telephone interview with the Canadian Press.
"I believe that the dog-and-pony show that showed up here yesterday did it specifically for their own personal, political gain."
Reached at the Puente Grande women's prison outside Guadalajara — her home for the last two years — Martin's voice sounded at times bitter and tearful.
She said she's "hanging on by a thin thread," and isn't expecting an early return to Canada.
"I'm not optimistic as what happened yesterday. I'm not optimistic of anything. No, I'm not optimistic at all."
Kenney and Norlock visited Martin, 51, on Wednesday following two days of meetings with senior officials at the Mexican attorney general's office, the foreign ministry and the prison to discuss the jailed woman's case.
'I can't control how she feels': Norlock
Norlock told radio station Star 93.3 in Cobourg, Ont., on Thursday that he and Kenney didn't travel to Mexico with their own political interests in mind.
"If she feels that we weren't serious about it, I can't control how she feels," he said.
"All I can control is the honest effort that is being put forward to get assurances from Mexican judicial officials and other government officials that may be involved in different aspects of this case."
Kenney, the secretary of state for multiculturalism, told the Canadian Press late Wednesday that Mexican officials assured him they will try to "fast-track" Martin's criminal court case.
"I believe that if her defence counsel works expeditiously in filing the last remaining part of the criminal proceeding with the court, the prosecutor general's office gave us the commitment that they will encourage the judge in the case to render a decision as soon as possible," he said.
"That would probably be in a matter of weeks, rather than months."
Liberal MP Dan McTeague, the party's consular affairs critic, said he was given similar assurances by Mexican officials four weeks ago.
"It's clear that the same guarantees that were given to me were given to Kenney five weeks later," he said. "Weeks become months, months become years."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said this week that Martin's case is troubling and upsetting, but Ottawa can't just demand her release.
Harper said Canadian officials have had about 100 contacts either with their Mexican counterparts or Martin herself in the last two years.
Dion questions why Canada won't intervene
In a statement Thursday, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion questioned why Canada is seeking clemency for Mohamed Kohail with the Saudi government, but won't intervene with Mexico. Kohail, a 22-year-old who used to live in Montreal, is imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, where he is accused of murder.
"How, then, can he say that Canada will intervene with Saudi Arabia to spare the life of Mr. Kohail? How is it also possible for Canada to have legal assistance treaties with other countries — including Mexico?" Dion said.
Mexican authorities detained Martin in February 2006 on allegations of money laundering and participating in a criminal conspiracy in connection with an investment scam involving her former boss, Alyn Waage.
Waage, a former Alberta resident, masterminded an Internet scheme that bilked 15,000 investors out of nearly $60 million US.
He's now serving a 10-year prison sentence in a U.S. federal prison.
Martin worked for Waage for 10 months as a chef until he fired her in 2001. She insists she knew nothing of the scam — a claim Waage has backed in a sworn affidavit.