Helicopter Crash Spurs Investigation In Mexico

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The Mexican government is launching an investigation into a helicopter crash that resulted in the death of one of the country's top officials. NPR's Mexico correspondent Jason Beaubien talks to host Audie Cornish about what prompted the probe.


Mexico is asking aviation experts from the U.S. and France to help investigate a helicopter crash that's killed President Felipe Calderon's point man in the fight against drug cartels. NPR's Mexico correspondent Jason Beaubien joins me in the studio to talk more about this. Jason, welcome.


CORNISH: Huge story in Mexico. Tell us who is this official.

BEAUBIEN: This is Francisco Blake Mora, and he's the interior minister, basically the second in Calderon's administration, and he's really the public face of this drug war that Calderon has been pushing against the cartels. And what's so amazing here is he's the second interior minister in Calderon's administration to die in an aviation crash in the last three years. There was speculation after Juan Camilo Mourino died in 2008. Basically, his plane just nosedived into Mexico City. Everyone onboard was killed. And at that point, there was a lot of speculation that this guy who's fighting the cartels had just been killed by the cartels.

CORNISH: Is it actually possible though that drug cartels could take down aircraft?

BEAUBIEN: Well, what's so interesting about this is there's certainly is the belief in Mexico that the cartels are capable of doing this. So the cartels are fighting an incredible battle against Calderon. Forty thousand people or more have already died in this war. The cartels have access to incredible weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades. So, there's the belief in Mexico that this could have happened. At the moment, however, that is not at all clear.

CORNISH: So, what do officials say about the cause of the crash?

BEAUBIEN: Officials are saying that this was caused by bad weather. And I should also point out that in Mexico City, the traffic is terrible, a lot of officials fly around in helicopters. There was a helicopter just last month that crashed a half a block from my house. So, helicopter crashes are quite common, and at the moment, that's what officials are saying. They're saying they're treating this as a crash and they do not believe that there was foul play. The question was whether ordinary Mexicans are going to believe that in a fight that has dragged on, that has been a complete sort of disaster for Calderon as a public relations thing when two of his main men fighting against the cartels both die in aviation crashes.

CORNISH: I'm sure there will be ripple effects from this for the coming months, and we appreciate you talking to us about it. NPR's Mexico correspondent Jason Beaubien. Thank you.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.


CORNISH: You're listening to NPR News.

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