By MARK LORENZANA
The Black Hawk helicopter of Mexico’s Secretariat of the Navy (Semar) that left 14 sailors dead after crashing in Los Mochis in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa on Friday, July 15, was the sixth helicopter to have figured in a crash under the administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) since 2019.
According to Semar, since 2019, there have been six helicopter crashes in Mexico. In May of 2019, six members of the Mexican Navy died when their MI-17 helicopter crashed in the north-central state of Querétaro, during operations to put out forest fires. In October 2020, a private helicopter crashed at the Villahermosa airport in Tabasco, injuring three. That same year, a Navy Black Hawk helicopter crashed during an operation in Veracruz, leaving one dead.
A year later, in August 2021, an MI-17 helicopter belonging to the Mexican Navy in which Veracruz Interior Secretary Éric Cisneros was traveling, crashed after takeoff, injuring all six passengers. In April of this year, another Navy MI-17 helicopter crashed in Mazatlan on a mission to put out forest fires, similar to the Querétaro crash, and injured all five sailors aboard.
The helicopter crash that killed 14 sailors happened shortly after the arrest, on Friday, of infamous drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero in an operation by the Mexican Navy. Earlier reports said that the capture of Caro Quintero was made in conjunction with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), but this claim has been debunked by Ken Salazar, U.S. ambassador to Mexico, who said that “no United States personnel participated in the tactical operation that resulted in the arrest of Caro Quintero.”
Causes attributed to previous helicopter crashes in the last three years have ranged from “a gust of wind” to “mechanical failures” to “weather conditions.”
In December 2018, then newly installed Puebla Governor Martha Erika Alonso Hidalgo was killed in a helicopter crash, along with her husband — Federal Senator and former Puebla Governor Rafael Moreno Valle Rosas — and three other people. López Obrador ordered a full investigation shortly after the incident, but cried foul and claimed that “neofascists” and conservatives were blaming his administration for the death of Alonso Hidalgo and Valle Rosas, who were both opposition politicians under the conservative National Action Party (PAN).
Meanwhile, on Monday, July 18, Judge Francisco Reséndiz Neri of Jalisco has stopped any attempt by Mexican federal authorities to deport, expel from the country or hand over Caro Quintero to U.S. authorities pending the results of an extradition trial. Reséndiz Neri acted on an injunction filed on Saturday, July 16, by Beatriz Angélica Caro Quintero, sister of the drug trafficker. At the same time, Judge Guillermo Francisco Urbina Tanús of Mexico City granted a suspension to prevent Caro Quintero from being held incommunicado or subjected to forced disappearance.
Caro Quintero was arrested in Costa Rica and sentenced in 1985 to 40 years in prison for the kidnapping, torture and murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, but was freed in 2013 by a Mexican appellate court, after serving 28 years of his sentence.