- Associated Press - Friday, November 11, 2011

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The country’s top Cabinet secretary, Francisco Blake Mora, a key figure in Mexico’s battle with drug cartels, died in a helicopter crash Friday with seven others, including the pilot, the government said.

The Presidency spokeswoman, Alejandra Sota, said authorities located the bodies of the secretary and seven others. They included Interior Undersecretary Felipe Zamora, said agency spokesman Jose Alfredo Garcia.

Calderon appointed Blake Mora as interior secretary in July 2010.

Blake Mora was traveling to a prosecutors’ meeting in the neighboring state of Morelos when the helicopter went down in a mountainous area of Mexico state southeast of Mexico City. Officials said they did not immediately know the cause of the crash.

The secretary of the interior is the country’s top official after the president, overseeing internal political affairs and security, making him a key figure in directing the battle against drug cartels, as well as negotiating with opposition political parties and with the legislature.

** FILE ** In this Wednesday, July 14, 2010, file photo, Mexico's Interior Minister Francisco Blake Mora attends his swearing-in ceremony at Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City. The Mexican government said on Friday, Nov. 11, 2011, that Mora, Mexico's No. 2 government official next to the president, has died in a helicopter crash with seven others, including the pilot. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, File)
** FILE ** In this Wednesday, July 14, 2010, file photo, Mexico’s ... more >

President Felipe Calderon lost Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino in the crash of a Learjet in Mexico City on Nov. 4, 2008. Despite widespread speculation that that accident, which killed 14, was caused by sabotage, investigators eventually ruled that out and blamed pilot error.

One of Blake’s last postings on his Twitter account commemorated the loss of Mourino

“Today we remember Juan Camilo Mourino three years after his death, a person who was working to build a better Mexico,” Blake tweeted on Nov. 4.

Blake Mora, 45, started his political career in the mid-1990s as an official in his native Tijuana and served as a federal congressman through the 2000s, as well as interior secretary of Baja California.

Like Mourino, he was Calderon’s point man in the government’s war against organized crime, frequently traveling to the country’s most dangerous places for meetings with besieged state and local security officials.

He was an embodiment of the Mexican government’s get-tough attitude, publicly pledging to bring the fight to the traffickers instead of backing down.

“Organized crime, in its desperation, resorts to committing atrocities that we can’t and shouldn’t tolerate as a government and as a society,” he said.

He also oversaw response to disasters, such as flooding and the massive oil pipeline explosion that laid waste to parts of the central city of San Martin Texmelucan last year, killing at least 28 people.

He led the creation of a new national identity card for youths under 18, with modern features including digitalized fingerprints and iris images, to prevent criminals from using false IDs.