Federal Prosecutors Take over Fire Probe in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Mexico's government on Wednesday took over
the entire investigation into a fire at a day care center that
killed 47 children, citing squabbling between state and federal
officials over the probe.

Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez Mont said the federal action
was meant to prevent the case from being politicized.

"Today the attorney general's office has taken over the
investigation so that there are no doubts about it and to avoid any
political disputes," Gomez Mont said.

The June 5 blaze in Hermosillo began in a Sonora state
government warehouse and spread to an adjacent federally funded day
care center. Officials say the fire may have started with a short
circuit or overheating in the air conditioning system in the
warehouse, which lacked fire alarms and extinguishers.

The tragedy shocked Mexicans and provoked finger-pointing
between federal and state authorities.

Gomez Mont, a member of President Felipe Calderon's National
Action Party, made his announcement a day after Sonora Gov. Eduardo
Bours of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party said a
lawsuit against the state by federal officials was a "smoke
screen" to deflect blame from the federal government.

The privately run center cared for children under a contract
from the federal Social Security Institute. The agency's director,
Daniel Karam, said Sunday that it would file a civil lawsuit
charging negligence by the day care center's owners and the state
Finance Department, which rented the adjacent warehouse.

Federal and state prosecutors had been conducting separate
investigations, which earlier this week led to the arrests of seven
state and two federal officials on negligent homicide charges.
Those arrested were low-level employees with the state Finance
Department and officials in the Social Security Institute's Sonora
office.

Federal Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora said Wednesday that
only one of those remained in jail. The others were freed on bail
or by an injunction from a judge.


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