Mexico Outraged by Killing of Anti-Crime Activist

Mexico reacted to the slaying of an
anti-crime activist with outrage Wednesday: Congress called for a
minute of silence, television commentators demanded justice and
activists pledged to step up their fight against crime despite
persistent threats.

Public-safety groups say Benjamin LeBaron was the first
anti-crime activist in Mexico to have been murdered in retaliation
for his work.

"It is essential that those responsible ... be punished," the
non-governmental group Mexico United Against Crime said in a
statement. "We cannot allow organized crime to intimidate,
threaten and kill those brave enough to denounce them."

The lower House of Congress held a minute of silence and
proposed a resolution condemning Tuesday's slaying of LeBaron, 32,
and neighbor Luis Widmar, 29, by a gang of armed men in
military-style camouflage gear. The two were abducted from
LeBaron's house, tossed into a truck and then shot in the head on a
nearby road.

"Millions of Mexicans share your indignation over this crime,"
national radio and television commentator Joaquin Lopez Doriga told
the victims' relatives.

Members of the tiny hamlet of Colonia LeBaron, a community
founded by excommunicated Mormons in northern Chihuahua state,
pledged to forge ahead with community efforts to stop kidnapping
and extortion, despite LeBaron's death.

LeBaron helped lead the town's approximately 2,000 inhabitants
in protests against the May 2 kidnapping of LeBaron's brother Eric
LeBaron, 19. The residents refused to pay the $1 million ransom
kidnappers requested and demonstrated in the Chihuahua state
capital to demand justice.

Even after Eric was released unharmed a week later, the LeBaron
people - most of whom are dual U.S. citizens and many of whom still
practice a breakaway version of the Mormon faith - continued to
lead marches demanding more law enforcement in the rural, isolated
corner of Chihuahua state.

They also set up a committee to report any suspicious activities
in town to police, quickly becoming an example for other Chihuahua
communities plagued by drug-related kidnappings and extortion.

"A lot of the neighboring communities were asking for our help
on how to get organized and how to set up," said LeBaron's cousin,
Daniel LeBaron. "They kind of looked at us as an example to
follow."

Both the army and police increased their presence in the town
following Eric's kidnapping. And then last month, soldiers detained
25 suspected hit men for the Sinaloa drug cartel in the nearby town
of Nicolas Bravo.

LeBaron's killers left a banner saying his slaying was revenge
for those arrests.

Benjamin LeBaron's brother, Julian LeBaron, said the banner was
signed "El General," an apparent reference to Sinaloa cartel
lieutenant Jose Garcia.

Colonia LeBaron was founded in the late 1940s by polygamist
Mormons from the United States after the U.S. church disavowed the
practice. Few of the families in the hamlet still practice
polygamy, and many are no longer practicing Mormons. The
townspeople now mainly farm, run cattle ranches and grow pecans.

Daniel Lebaron said the community knows it can't win the war
against the drug cartels, but he said that won't stop it from
organizing.

"These people think that this is going to stop us," he said.
"But it's only going to make us stronger."


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