Saturday, 12 November 2011
Mexican minister who fought drug cartels killed in crash
As Mexican President Felipe Calderon mourned the loss of his top minister in the nation's war against drug cartels, he pledged that the investigation into Friday's helicopter crash that killed the Cabinet member and all seven others aboard would be transparent and timely.
In a national address Friday, Calderon said authorities don't know the exact cause of the crash south of Mexico City that killed Interior Minister Jose Francisco Blake Mora, but he added that investigators will look at all possible angles.
A total of eight people -- not nine as earlier indicated by a government spokeswoman -- were killed in the crash, which occurred in a rural area south of the nation's capital.
The incident evoked comparisons to a 2008 plane crash that also killed the country's then-interior minister. That crash, in a luxurious Mexico City neighborhood, was later determined to be an accident caused by turbulence. The Learjet carrying the minister and others was following a commercial airliner too closely, authorities said.
"Calderon is in the last year of his presidency, so Mexico is entering a presidential election year just as the United States is. President Calderon has been criticized because the number of persons killed has escalated during his presidency and so people see him as failed. I think that's a harsh judgment," Zamora said.
"He inherited a country, especially in the northern states, that is being destabilized by the drug cartels. He's started employing the army, which hasn't been used much domestically, to fight the drug cartels," Zamora said.
While Blake Mora was well regarded by U.S. officials, his loss won't devastate the Calderon administration, said Pamela K. Starr, associate professor of international relations at the University of Southern California.
"I think there's an inevitability that there will be speculation that organized crime was involved in this, but it seems highly unlikely to me that indeed will be the case," Starr said, noting how the helicopter crashed under foggy conditions in a remote area.
"He was very highly thought of both within Mexico and with his counterparts in the United States," Starr said of Blake Mora. "With that said, he has not been one of the central figures in the battle against drug cartels in Mexico. The lead has been taken more by the federal police and the president himself, along with the military and the prosecutor's office."