Mexican Interior Minister Blake Mora killed in helicopter crash

There's no sign of foul play in the crash that killed Mexican Interior Minister Francisco Blake Mora and 7 others today. But amid Mexico's bloody drug war, count on speculation that drug gangs had a hand.

Forotv-Televisa via APTN/AP
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, Friday. The Mexican government said Friday, that Mora, Mexico's No. 2 government official next to the president, died in the helicopter crash with seven others, including the pilot.

Dealing a symbolic blow to Mexico’s fight against organized crime, Mexican Interior Minister Francisco Blake Mora and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash Friday.

The chopper went down in the southern part of Mexico City on its way to a prosecutors meeting in the neighboring state of Morelos.

It is unclear what caused the crash. "We are investigating all possible causes of this unfortunate incident," Alejandra Sota, the government's national security spokeswoman, said at a news conference Friday.

Mr. Blake Mora was in charge of everything from navigating congressional opposition, to national disasters, to security. He was one face of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s military-led strategy against drug trafficking organizations, which has taken more than 40,000 lives in five years.

He is the fourth interior minister under President Calderon. Another was also killed in an aviation accident three years ago.

The accident, while tragic, is likely to have little impact President Calderon’s efforts to take down drug traffickers. “For Calderon it’s certainly a blow, but his strategy will continue,” says Alejandro Schtulmann, head of research at the Emerging Markets Political Risk Analysis consulting firm in Mexico City.

The accident comes three years, almost to the day, since Mexico’s former interior minister Juan Camilo Mouriño was killed in a plane crash. Mr. Mouriño, along with several others, was traveling in a small plane that crashed into a major road in the heart of Mexico City during rush hour traffic.

Investigators blamed that crash on the fact that the small aircraft was flying too close to a jet, which may have led to turbulence that led the pilot to lose control.

But at that time, Mexicans speculated that drug traffickers were behind the accident and that the government was hiding the real cause.

That speculation could re-emerge, now that two interior ministers have died in aircraft accidents.  “This will certainly be a boon to conspiracy theorists,” says George Grayson, an expert and author on Mexico’s drug trafficking organizations at the College of William & Mary.

Erubiel Tirado, a security expert at the Iberamerican University in Mexico City, says that bad weather or mechanical failure are more likely the culprits in this case. While Blake Mora's death means that Calderon will have to replace a key figure in his cabinet, just as energy and attention has gone towards presidential elections in 2012, Mr. Tirado says Blake Mora played a secondary role in the fight against drug traffickers.

A lawyer by training, Blake Mora had taken office in July of last year. He was a federal congressman and began his career in his native Tijuana.

He recently paid tribute to Mouriño on his Twitter account. "Today we remember Juan Camilo Mourino three years after his passing, a human being who worked toward the creation of a better Mexico," Blake Mora wrote Nov. 4.

His funeral will be held tomorrow.

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