comscore Mexican president cancels APEC trip after crash kills top official | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaii News | Top News

Mexican president cancels APEC trip after crash kills top official

    In this video frame grab image taken from Televisa's Forotv via APTN, investigators examine the wreckage of a helicopter that was carrying Mexico's Interior Minister Francisco Blake Mora, in a mountainous area of Mexico state southeast of Mexico City today. The Mexican government said that Mora, Mexico's No. 2 government official next to the president, died in the helicopter crash with seven others, including the pilot.
    In this Wednesday July 14, 2010 Associated Press file photo, Mexico's Interior Minister Francisco Blake Mora, left, shakes hands with Mexico's President Felipe Calderon at Mora's swearing in ceremony at Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City.

MEXICO CITY >> The country’s top Cabinet secretary, Francisco Blake Mora, a key figure in Mexico’s battle with drug cartels, died today in a helicopter crash that President Felipe Calderon said was probably an accident.

Calderon said the helicopter was flying in fog when it went down in a remote area southeast of Mexico City, but that all possible causes were under investigation.

"Mexico has lost a great patriot … and I lost a dear friend," said Calderon, visibly struggling to maintain composure during address to the country. "He was not only an exemplary minister, he was an exemplary Mexican."

Calderon canceled many of his appearances, including a trip to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting of world leaders in Hawaii this weekend. Blake Mora’s funeral was scheduled for Saturday. He had been scheduled to arrive in Hawaii early Sunday.

From Air Force One, President Barack Obama called Calderon to express his sympathies. Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes says Obama considered those lost to be close partners of the United States and strong public servants of the Mexican people.

Authorities said the undersecretary for human rights, Felipe Zamora, was also among the seven others also killed, including the pilot.

Calderon appointed Blake Mora as interior secretary in July 2010. That put him in charge of coordinating domestic policies including security, human rights, migration and the president’s relation with the legislature and opposition parties.

His death, while a blow to the government, is not likely to change policy or day-to-day operations.

Blake Mora was traveling to a prosecutors’ meeting in the neighboring state of Morelos when the helicopter went down in a mountainous area of Mexico State.

Calderon lost an earlier interior secretary, Juan Camilo Mourino, in the crash of a Learjet in Mexico City on Nov. 4, 2008. Despite widespread speculation that the accident, which killed 16, was caused by sabotage, investigators eventually blamed pilot error.

Suspicions commonly swirl around the deaths of prominent people in Mexico, and Calderon appeared to try to quell any suggestions of sabotage this time, saying Blake Mora’s helicopter "was always under guard" in the hangar of Mexico’s equivalent of the Secret Service and that it had recently undergone maintenance.

One of Blake Mora’s last postings on his Twitter account commemorated the loss of Mourino.

"Today we remember Juan Camilo Mourino three years after his death, a person who was working to build a better Mexico," Blake Mora tweeted on Nov. 4.

Blake Mora, 45, started his political career in the mid-1990s as an official in his native Tijuana and served as a federal congressman through the 2000s, as well as interior secretary of Baja California.

As Calderon’s point man in the government’s war against organized crime, he frequently traveling to the country’s most dangerous places for meetings with besieged state and local security officials.

He was an embodiment of the Mexican government’s get-tough attitude, publicly pledging to bring the fight to the traffickers instead of backing down.

"Organized crime, in its desperation, resorts to committing atrocities that we can’t and shouldn’t tolerate as a government and as a society," he said.

He also oversaw response to disasters, such as flooding and the massive oil pipeline explosion that laid waste to parts of the central city of San Martin Texmelucan last year, killing at least 28 people.

He led the creation of a new national identity card for youths under 18, with modern features including digitalized fingerprints and iris images, to prevent criminals from using false IDs.

It was hard for many to believe that two interior secretaries could die in air accidents in the same administration.

"This is very unfortunate," said Sinaloa Congressman Manuel Clouthier, whose own father, a popular politician in Calderon’s National Action Party, died in a still-unexplained highway accident in 1989. "There are many coincidences because now we have two interior ministers (lost) in one presidential term … who knows if we’ll ever really know what happened."

In the crash that killed Mourino, the jet smashed into rush-hour traffic in a posh Mexico City business district, killing all nine on board and seven on the ground. Mexican investigators blamed the Learjet 45 crash on the turbulence from a larger plane flying ahead.

The investigation found that the pilots were slow to follow the control tower’s instructions to reduce speed and appeared to be nearly one nautical mile too close behind a Boeing 767-300 on the same flight path to Mexico City’s international airport.

Also killed in the crash was former anti-drug prosecutor Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, who had been the target of at least one previous assassination plot.

The Mexican government provided a detailed account of the crash aimed at quelling widespread rumors that the plane was brought down by powerful and increasingly violent drug cartels.

In 2005, a helicopter crash blamed on poor weather conditions killed Mexico’s top police official, public safety secretary Ramon Martin Huerta, who was head of federal police, and seven other people. 

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature
Comments have been disabled for this story...

Scroll Up