Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images
Police inspect the site of a plane crash in Mexico City on Tuesday. Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mourino died in the crash.
Police inspect the site of a plane crash in Mexico City on Tuesday. Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mourino died in the crash. Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images
Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images
Mourino, the second-highest ranking official in Mexico, was leading the war against the country's drug cartels.
Mourino, the second-highest ranking official in Mexico, was leading the war against the country's drug cartels. Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images
Investigators in Mexico are trying to determine what caused a plane crash this week that killed the second highest-ranking official in the Mexican government.
Officials say they have ruled out a bomb or an engine failure as the cause of the crash that killed Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mourino, a close confidant of President Felipe Calderon.
Mourino was on his way back to the capital when the plane went down. While the government is treating the crash of the Learjet 45 as an accident, many Mexicans speculate that it was brought down by organized crime. Mourino was leading the country's war against the country's drug cartels.
The government released a recording from the air traffic control system that appears to show that the jet was making a normal approach into the Mexico City airport when it lost contact with the control tower and disappeared off the radar.
The jet sped through a canyon of high-rise offices in the posh Lomas de Chapultepec section of the capital before crashing into the street. All nine people on board and five people on the ground were killed.
Juan Barrios Rodriguez, who works in one of the towers near the crash site, says the debris from the plane was strewn all over the street.
"The pieces flew everywhere," he said. "There were parts of the plane sticking out of a car. It was incredible."
Barrios, who is also an amateur pilot, says he has a lot of questions about why the plane crashed so quickly. He points out that it had altitude and speed when it disappeared off the radar. Even with an engine failure, he says, the pilot could have tried to land at a nearby military compound.
"I think something happened inside the cockpit," he says. "That's my point of view. This isn't normal."
His point of view is shared by many Mexicans who believe the plane was brought down by one of the drug cartels. Just last week, the government arrested cartel informants working in the upper levels of the security forces. There was even a mole inside the U.S. Embassy allegedly passing along information about American Drug Enforcement Agency activity.
Whether or not organized criminals actually brought down the interior minister's plane, there's widespread belief that they are capable of it.
Mexico has brought in aviation experts from the U.S. and Britain to help with the investigation. The transportation minister says the incident is still being treated as an accident, but investigators will pursue all possibilities.
At a memorial service at a military parade ground Thursday, the coffins of Mourino and eight others were draped in Mexican flags.
Calderon said there will be a full investigation.
"As the president and a friend of Mourino, I have the greatest interest in finding the truth and what caused this to happen," he said.
Mexico's drug war has claimed more than 4,000 lives this year alone. In May, the head of the federal police — another close associate of the president — was gunned down at his apartment.
In a scene that's become all too common, police officers removed the green, white and red flags from each of the coffins, folded them tightly, and then Calderon handed them to the victims' widows and children.