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Mexican leader mourns crash victim

Mexican president Felipe Calderon said the death of the country's second most senior official in a helicopter crash will not weaken the government's offensive against drug cartels.

Speaking at a memorial service, Mr Calderon said the best way to pay tribute to interior secretary Francisco Blake Mora and the seven others killed on Friday when their aircraft hit a mountainside south of Mexico City is "to keep fighting with greater conviction for the things they fought for".

Mr Blake Mora had been the face of the government's drug war, carrying a message to stay tough and bringing new offensives to states beleaguered by drug violence. He was on his way to a meeting of prosecutors when he died.

"The best way to honour these citizens is to step up the efforts to transform Mexico into the country they wanted," Mr Calderon said at a military field where thousands of people, including cabinet members, governors and relatives of Mr Blake Mora mourned the crash victims.

As a military orchestra played a march, Mr Calderon stood for several minutes on a red carpet next to Mr Blake Mora's coffin, with the other seven caskets lined up behind him amid an honour guard of hundreds of soldiers.

The president then offered his condolences to Mr Blake Mora's wife and children and gave them a portrait of Mr Blake Mora and the Mexican flag that covered his coffin during the vigil.

Mr Calderon had choked back emotion on Friday when he announced the loss of "a great patriot ... a dear friend".

On Saturday, he stood strong while delivering a speech telling Mexicans that despite their grief, the loss should inspire more action in the war against cartels, a conflict that has seen at least 35,000 deaths since late 2006.

Mr Blake Mora's death has been a stunning mishap too odd for some Mexicans to accept as an accident, even with the president and officials saying bad weather may have been the cause of the crash.


From Belfast Telegraph