Thursday, November 17, 2011

Theories Abound on Cause of Mexico Minister's Helicopter Crash

More theories have emerged about the cause of last Friday’s helicopter crash that killed Mexican Interior Minister Francisco Blake Mora. While the director of the official investigation claimed yesterday that the crash was most likely due to pilot error or instrument failure, others have suggested that it was the result of foul play. In a recent report cited by the Houston Chronicle, Global intelligence firm STRATFOR claimed that a confidential government source had said that the purposeful contamination of the aircraft’s fuel supply was a leading theory among investigators.

Much of this speculation is due to the fact that the Interior Minister’s death occurred almost exactly three years after the death of his predecessor, Juan Camilo Mouriño, who died in similarly mysterious plane crash in November of 2008. Additionally, the Huffington Post reported earlier this week that one Twitter user posted an ominous message a day before the crash, saying, "Tomorrow on 11/11/11, you'll have a Secretary falling from the sky ... avoid reform."

Patrick Corcoran from InSight Crime notes that Blake Mora is the fourth major politician to die in an aircraft crash in the past six years, but offers a somewhat less colorful explanation for the trend:

An alternative theory is much simpler and more logical, though probably more damning. That is, the extraordinary number of fatal crashes is not caused by criminal groups sending messages to the president, but rather by a deficient aviation safety system. Defects in the model that killed Mouriño and Santiago Vasconcelos, a Learjet 45, had provoked a warning from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2003, yet the Mexican government purchased a handful of them for use by senior officials a year later.
The helicopter carrying Blake Mora had recently received maintenance, according to reports, but it was also almost 30 years old, having been purchased originally during the administration of Miguel de la Madrid.
Ultimately, while the similarity between these deaths is quite striking, there is no reason to believe that a lack of attention to aviation safety could not be behind them. As Corcoran notes, in some ways this carelessness is even more alarming than the conspiracy theories, as it shows a profound lack of necessary caution on the part of those in charge of protecting Mexican government officials.

News Briefs

·         U.S. officials yesterday uncovered a major drug-smuggling tunnel which led between two a warehouses in Tijuana and Otay Mesa, California. The BBC reports that tunnel was 400 yards in length, and notes that officials also seized an estimated 14 tons of marijuana in the operation.  According to Mexico’s El Universal, more than 75 such tunnels have been detected in the past four years, the majority of which lead into California and Arizona.

·         Two journalists working for Mexico’s El Financiero went missing in the northern state of Zacatecas earlier this week. The AP reports that the last thing the individuals reported before their disappearance was that they were being followed by “two patrol cars.”

·         The L.A. Times has published an editorial which condemns Haitian President Michel Martelly’s plans to reconstitute the country’s military. As the piece notes, Martelly “has yet to outline what safeguards would be adopted to prevent abuses or to ensure that former soldiers tied to past violence don't reenlist.

·         The New York Times profiles an attempt by tech-savvy Guatemalans to start up a local equivalent of Silicon Valley in brick building located in downtown Guatemala City.  According to the founder of the effort, Juan Mini, “a new Guatemala is being born right now.”

·         Twenty-two years after the Salvadoran Army killed six Jesuit priests in one of the most notorious events of El Salvador’s brutal civil war, WOLA’s Geoff  Thale offers some insightful commentary on the status of the case, as well as current justice issues in the country.  

·         Last week Honduras’ Supreme Electoral Tribunal validated the petition presented by the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP), which sought official recognition for the creation of a new political party. The FNRP’s new party will be known as Libre, short for “Libertad y Refundacion.” The Honduras Culture and Politics blog offers a helpful rundown on the development of Libre as a political party and the challenges it faces, as well as an English translation of the party’s declaration of principles.

·         AFP claims that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has returned to political campaigning, saying that he has been “renewed" and is "determined to deepen" his "socialist revolution." The wire agency reports that Chavez has been especially active in recent days, attending various public events and announcing the creation of various new programs intended to benefit poor families, workers and retirees. Despite this, polling firm Datanalisis claims that his popularity rating has fallen from 58.9% to 51%, which likely reflects the latter half of a temporary wave of sympathy for the leader during his illness.

·         Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos recently offered some perspective into the rift between him and his predecessor (and former boss), Alvaro Uribe. In an interview with BBC Mundo, Santos claimed that Uribe has refused to answer several of his recent phone calls.