11 November 2011

Interior Minister perishes in helicopter crash

Mexican Interior Minister Francisco Blake Mora died Friday in a helicopter crash, the second time in three years the most senior member of President Felipe Calderón’s cabinet has perished in an aviation disaster.

Federal government spokeswoman Alejandra Sota confirmed the death shortly after 12:30 p.m. local time. The crash, just to the southeast of Mexico City, claimed the lives of Blake, 45, along with seven passengers and crew. There were no survivors. Calderón was reported en route to the crash site. It's uncertain if he will depart later on Friday for APEC meetings as originally planned.

Blake becomes the second interior minister to suffer an untimely death in barely three years. Former interior Juan Camilo Mouriño perished Nov. 4, 2008, when his small jet plunged into a street in the swank Lomas de Chapultepec neighbourhood. Investigators blamed the crash involving Mouriño – long the domain of conspiracy theories – on pilot error.

Both men were key figures in the country's national security cabinet and coordinating security matters during a time that organized crime violence increasingly spread into previously placid pockets of Mexico.

Aviation crashes involving senior government officials have been distressingly frequent over the past decade. Colima governor Gustavo Vázquez died in a 2005 plane crash. More recently, a helicopter belonging to the Mexico state government crashed last month in the Coyoacán borough of Mexico City, killing two state officials. Billionaire businessman Moisés Saba died in a helicopter crash during bad weather in the western part of the Federal District in January 2010.

It's still uncertain who might replace Blake as interior minister, the most senior cabinet position and one responsible for internal security and overseeing agencies ranging from the National Immigration Institute to civil protection to Cisen, the country's intelligence service. The interior minister also acts as a liaison between the federal government and Congress and the 31 state governments.

Blake Mora was an unlikely choice for interior minister, having previously spent most of his political career in the Baja California state government and serving with Calderón in the federal lower house of Congress.

He sas the fourth interior minister of the Calderón administration and he replaced a political heavyweight: Fernando Gómez-Mont, one of the country's top lawyers and a close associate of none other than Diego Fernández de Cevallos – better known as "Jefe Diego." Gómez-Mont left cabinet after disagreeing with Calderón over the National Action Party's decision to pursue electoral alliances with the Mexican left in order to topple governments in six of the country's most retrograde Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) backwaters, including Oaxaca and Puebla.

A distraught-looking Calderón eulogized Blake during comments to the nation shortly after 2:30 p.m., describing the fathar of two as dedicated to his country and someone who emerged from working class roots in Tijuana to earn a law degree and ascend to top positions in the Baja California and federal governments.

No details on the cause of the crash were given.

No comments: