Mexican President Felipe Calderon attended Saturday the two vigils being held in Mexico City, one civilian and the other military, at which loved ones paid their last respects to Interior Secretary Jose Francisco Blake and the other seven victims of a helicopter crash on Friday.
Government officials and members of the military died when their helicopter went down in the municipality of Chalco in Mexico state, near the capital city, as they were flying to a meeting of district attorneys in Cuernavaca.
The interior secretary is Mexico’s second-most-powerful official after the president.
The 45-year-old Blake was a key figure in Calderon’s struggle with drug cartels and organized crime, a conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives since the current head of state took office in December 2006.
Cloudiness in the area was the first suggested reason for the accident, though it will be up to a team of Mexican, U.S. and French experts to determine why the Eurocopter crashed into Chayaqueme mountain.
The normal route of a helicopter between Mexico City and Cuernavaca is more direct, flying over Picacho Ajusco, an inactive volcano, but apparently the bad weather decided the pilots to take a detour by way of Amecameca and Mount Tepotzteco.
This Saturday, President Calderon and first lady Margarita Zavala offered their personal condolences to the families of the eight victims, four civilians and four members of the military, for whom vigils were held in different parts of the capital.
Attending the various vigils were Defense Minister Guillermo Galvan, Navy Secretary Mariano Saynez and Attorney General Marisela Morales, as well as the predecessor of Minister Blake, the attorney Fernando Gomez Mont.
Also paying their last respects to the government officials and military were some of the candidates in next year’s presidential elections, set for July 1, 2012.
On Saturday afternoon the mortal remains of the eight crash victims were to be taken to the Marte Military Camp, located on the west side of Mexico City, where a state funeral will be held in their memory, beginning at 4:00 p.m. local time and led by President Calderon.
Besides the interior secretary, the fatalities included the deputy minister of judicial affairs, Felipe de Jesus Zamora Castro and the director of communications of the ministry, Jose Alfredo Garcia Medina.
Also killed in the accident were the tecnical secretary of Blake’s office, Diana Miriam Hayton Sanchez, and four members of the military, Maj. Rene de Leon Zapien, Lieut. Col. Felipe Bacio Cortes, Lieut. Pedro Ramon Escobar Becerra and Sgt. Jorge Luis Juarez Gomez.
The Mexican government has received outpourings of sympathy from many countries including Argentina, Colombia, Spain, the United States, France, Guatemala and Venezuela, as well as from international organizations such as the United Nations and the Organization of American States.