Mexican president to visit border for public safety talks, meet relatives of slain Americans


Lopez Obrador visiting LeBaron family in Chihuahua, touring town where 9 were massacred

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds his first news conference as president, in Mexico City, Monday, Dec. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Christian Palma)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The president of Mexico is coming to the border next week for a briefing on efforts to reduce violence in Juarez and to meet with relatives of the nine Americans murdered by drug traffickers on Nov. 4.

The President’s Office said Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador would be attending a public safety meeting in Juarez next Friday morning and later travel to the western Chihuahua town of Nuevo Casas Grandes and to neighboring Sonora state to meet with representatives of the LeBaron family. Lopez Obrador is also planning to visit Bavispe, the town where the massacre of three women and six children from the LeBaron colony took place on a highway.

“I will be with them (the LeBarons) on the 12th. … I will be at La Mora and Bavispe, Sonora that Sunday. I will take advantage of the trip to do a tour of the north. I will be in Chihuahua, I will be in Nogales and Aguaprieta” in Sonora state, Lopez Obrador said during a morning press conference broadcast on YouTube.

The killing of members of the Langford and LeBaron family members drew international attention and evidenced how criminal organizations operate with impunity in the Mexican countryside. The assassins are alleged members of the La Linea criminal transnational organization who mistook the three women’s SUVs for vehicles being driven by rivals from a Sinaloa cartel cell operating along the Chihuahua-Sonora border. The Mexican Attorney General’s Office so far has arrested seven men in connection with the murders, including the police chief of Janos, a town west of Juarez.

LeBaron, Chihuahua, was founded as a Mormon settlement in the 1920s by Americans seeking to freely practice their beliefs. But since the 1980s, much of the farmland and ranches around the city of Nuevo Casas Grandes have been used to grow illicit crops and as staging points for drug smuggling into the United States, according to authorities on both sides of the border.

Drug traffickers targeted the LeBarons in the late-2000s, beginning with the kidnapping of 16-year-old Erick LeBaron. Rather than paying a $1 million ransom, the clan organized public protests that led to his release. But that same year, 2009, the teen’s brother, Benjamin LeBaron and brother-in-law Luis Carlos Widmar were abducted and shot to death.

Top Mexican officials have already met with members of the LeBaron clan, but this would be the first time the President meets them on their turf.

As for his stop in Juarez, Lopez Obrador plans to attend a meeting of the local Public Safety Commission, which will brief him on efforts to reduce the city’s homicide rate (almost 1,500 were murdered last year) and cope with drug cartel violence. In November, members of the “Mexicles” gang rocked the city with a spree of murders and vehicle burnings in retaliation for authorities raiding a prison from where their leaders allegedly continue to operate.

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