Mexican president prays with family of dead U.S. dual citizens

A member of the Mexican security forces stands guard near City Hall in Villa Union, Mexico, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. Some long for the days when Mexican marines successfully patrolled the area until President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador reassigned them to other duties. They were known for not getting corrupted by the cartels and not yielding in battle with them. “The marines are the only ones I trust,” said one local mechanic. “The rest are going to take a bribe.” | Associated Press photo by Eduardo Verdugo, St. George News

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador prayed for the safety of the country with the relatives of nine U.S. dual citizens slaughtered in northern Mexico last month and assured them “at least four” suspects have been detained, a family member said.

Julian LeBaron, center, embraces Erika Garcia, left, and another woman before a protest against the first year in office of Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, in Mexico City, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. | Associated Press photo by Ginnette Riquelme, St. George News

Julian LeBaron said that during the family’s Monday meeting with López Obrador and his Cabinet at Mexico City’s National Palace, the president pledged to visit the region where the Nov. 4 massacre took place.

Mexican politicians traditionally avoid open displays of faith, and López Obrador has been unusual in recent comments referring to himself as a “follower of Jesus Christ.”

“We just bowed our heads” and “prayed for the president and the country, for peace and goodwill, and to protect our loved ones, and protect our country,” LeBaron said Tuesday.

The extended LeBaron family has lived in northern Mexico for decades and identify as part of the Mormon tradition though they are not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Dual nationals, they were hotly criticized by some for asking U.S. President Donald Trump to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations, something Trump said he would do.

“We think we should all be humble enough, and that’s something we discussed with the president, to recognize that we have an immense problem on our hands and we need help,” LeBaron said. “Of course, we wouldn’t like to see a military invasion.”

Three young mothers and six children were killed in the attack near the border of the northern states of Sonora and Chihuahua. Officials have said a drug cartel is suspected in the attack, but they initially suggested that one of the mothers’ vehicles was set afire unintentionally, when a bullet hit the gas tank.

This frame from Nov. 4, 2019, video by Kenny Miller and posted on the Twitter account of Alex LeBaron shows a burned-out vehicle that was being used by some members of the LeBaron family as they were driving in a convoy near the Sonora-Chihuahua border in Mexico. | Photo by Kenny Miller/Courtesy of Alex LeBaron via The Associated Press, St. George News

LeBaron said officials have confirmed to them that the killers filmed the attack themselves and set fire to the SUV in which one mother — LeBaron’s cousin — and her four children died. He said family members have seen the video.

LeBaron is now trying to press for the kind of local anti-crime organizing that his community in Chihuahua state put together in 2009 after a previous attack by drug cartel gunmen.

He envisions communities allowed to form a posse, deputize citizens and bear arms to fight cartel incursions.

“We’ve been invaded by criminal terrorist organizations within our own country, within our own communities, and our government has absolutely failed to stop the thugs,” LeBaron said. “At some point we have to assume responsibility as citizens to put a stop to it.”

“The whole western United States was basically built on a structure that worked for communities, what we call the Wild West was never the wild West,” he said. “Within the community they basically had all the powers to hold people accountable. The whole town could be deputized to bring criminals before justice.”

Written by MARK STEVENSON, The Associated Press.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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