Friday, July 10, 2009

Mexican Senate holds moment of silence for fundamentalist Mormon 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.

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 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.

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.

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