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Dying in Mexico


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On May 8, Julian LeBaron plans to arrive in Mexico City with like-minded friends from the Mormon colonies in Chihuahua, as part of a national protest march against the ongoing death toll caused by Mexico's 'war on drugs' and the cartels' response to it.---

LeBaron lost his older brother Benjamin two years ago when he was kidnapped and murdered along with his brother-in-law by heavily armed men. This was after members of the LeBaron family led by Benjamin had actively protested against a wave of kidnappings and murders that had besieged the once peaceful idylls of the three Mormon colonies a few hours from Ciudad Juarez. The Mormon colonies were founded by polygamists fleeing Utah after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints publicly renounced the practice of plural wives over 100 years ago.

In the face of such a tragedy, LeBaron understood the anguish and pain of Mexican poet Javier Sicilia in April, when after the murder of his 24-year-old son by drug cartel members, Sicilia called for silent marches to the capital to protest both the violence and what he reportedly called "the stupid strategy" of Mexican president Felipe Calderon to fight the drug cartels.

LeBaron says there is "98 percent impunity for murderers and kidnapping" in Mexico. "Before the 'war on drugs' we never had these numbers."

While LeBaron notes that the wave of kidnappings focused on the Mormon colonies have gone down significantly, over the last weekend 40 people in others parts of Chihuahua were murdered. "The biggest problem we have is there is justice for no one," he says.

The reason for the decline in kidnappings may well have to do with the presence of federal police and soldiers. "Security is kind of lame if you don't have justice," LeBaron says. He is also concerned about a new law the Mexican government wants to pass, which would give substantial new powers to the military "to do what they want, tap phones, break down doors."

Along with the march, LeBaron says Sicilia also wants the names of people who have been murdered in each town to be put up in the corresponding plaza. "People are treated as if they are disposable, collateral damage," LeBaron says. "We want to create a  consciousness that they are human beings."