Mexican President Felipe Calderon expressed "enormous sorrow" over the death of his interior minister and close friend Juan Camilo Mourino in a plane crash late Tuesday in Mexico City, dpa reported.
With his voice breaking, Calderon recalled that Mourino had been his companion in politics for several years and that they dreamed together of "a new homeland."
He said Mourino, who died along with other government officials when their plane crashed in western Mexico City, was a dedicated man who never doubted "investing even his life" in achieving improvements for Mexico.
Calderon praised Mourino's ability to negotiate and his dedication to work in a short speech at the Mexico City airport after he returned to the capital earlier than planned from a trip to the western city of Guadalajara.
However, he noted that no matter "how painful and difficult" the current moment is, Mexicans should not "lose heart in the fight for a better Mexico."
The president said he would decide within a few hours who was to succeed Mourino as interior minister.
Mourino coordinated Calderon's presidential campaign and headed the president's office before becoming interior minister in January.
Mexico's interior minister is in charge of the country when the president is abroad, and he is in charge of relations with the legislature and state governors.