Face of Mexico's Drug War Dies in Chopper Crash

MEXICO CITY  -- Mexican Secretary of the Interior Francisco Blake Mora, a leading figure in the country's deadly war with drug traffickers, died Friday in a helicopter crash on his way to a meeting of judicial officials. He was 45.

Blake Mora was President Felipe Calderon's point man in the all-out military and law-enforcement push against traffickers, frequently traveling to violence-torn cities for meetings with besieged state and local security officials.

For many Mexicans, he embodied the government's get-tough attitude on the narcotics business, publicly pledging on many occasions to keep bringing the fight to the traffickers instead of backing down.

He often promised to step up the presence of troops and federal police in violent areas, and not leave until and drug gang members there were caught.

"Organized crime, in its desperation, resorts to committing atrocities that we can't and shouldn't tolerate as a government and as a society," Blake Mora said after investigators found more than 100 bodies in pits near the U.S. border.

He later announced a five-point initiative to investigate the crimes and to increase security, including the federal monitoring of buses such as those used by the migrant victims.

Blake Mora oversaw the government's response to natural disasters like the massive oil pipeline disaster 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.

Trained as a lawyer, Blake Mora started his political career in the mid-1990s as an official in his native Tijuana. He served as a federal congressman for Calderon's National Action Party from 2000 to 2003, and as a local legislator in the northern state of Baja California from 2004 to 2007.

In November 2007, he was named interior secretary for Baja California, rising in July 2010 to the national position he held until his death. Calderon lost another interior secretary, Juan Camilo Mourino, in a plane crash in Mexico City in November 2008.