The past three months have taken a heavy toll on many American Mormon communities in Mexico, as they become entangled in the government’s war on drugs.
This month, Benjamin LeBaron, 31, a Mormon leader of a community founded by Mormon pioneer Alma Dayer LeBaron 60 years ago, was abducted by heavily armed men masquerading as police. He was beaten and shot dead 10 minutes from town. According to The Washington Post, LeBaron’s killing was a result of his refusal to pay a million dollar ransom for his teenage brother who was kidnapped from his family ranch in May.
“We’re living in a war zone, but it’s a war zone with little kids running all around the yard,” said Julian LeBaron, Benjamin’s brother. Like most members of the Mormon enclave, he has a dual Mexican-American citizenship and speaks Spanish and English fluently.
The enclave’s relative wealth makes them targets. They are frequently threatened and extorted and their children and elders are kidnapped, much like Benjamin LeBaron’s teenage brother.
Many Mormons have fled to the United States. Marco LeBaron, a college student and another brother of Benjamin's, came home for the funeral of his brother and is one of 70 Mormons who have volunteered to join a rural police force to protect the town. The Mexican government has given them permission to arm themselves.
"All we want to do is live in peace. We want nothing to do with the drug cartels. They can't be stopped,” Marco LeBaron remarked. “What we want is just to protect ourselves from being kidnapped and killed.”