The Mexican Mormon War (Drug Cartels vs. Mormons Full Length)


MITT ROMNEY: Drug trafficking. That’s one more of those
areas of concern. It’s time for the United States
of America to take responsibility for the pain and
suffering and torture and murder that’s going on
throughout Latin America. SHANE SMITH: Maybe one of the
reasons that Mitt Romney is so concerned with the drug wars
taking place just south of the American border is that it
affects him and his family personally. Hi, I’m Shane Smith and we’re
here at the Vice headquarters in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Now, Williamsburg is ground
zero for hipsters. Which means it’s also ground
zero for partying. Which means it’s ground
zero for cocaine. Now, Vice has talked a lot about
cocaine over the years. In fact, one of our magazine
covers featured a mirror with a big line of coke
chopped up on it. But recently, we followed a
story that made us think twice about our historical fascination
with coke. And it has to do
with Mormons– as in Mitt Romney’s family-type
Mormons– Mexican drug cartels, polygamy,
kidnapping, cocaine, and finally, murder. Now, it’s a freaky,
freaky story. And it’s taking place just
south of the US border. So we went to check it
out firsthand to see what’s going on. We just passed through from El
Paso, in Texas, which is actually one of the safest
cities in America, into Juarez, Mexico, which is
actually one of the most dangerous cities in the world. In fact, it’s the most dangerous
city in the world for journalists. And we’re driving with the
camera rolling, which is, in retrospect, very
fucking stupid. People always ask me what the
most dangerous place I’ve ever been to is. And when I say Mexico, they’re
a bit flummoxed. And they say, Mexico,
I’ve been to Mexico. I’ve been to Cancun, Joe’s
Tequila Foam Party and Boom Boom Room. But this Mexico, here in Juarez,
is the Mexico run by the narco lords. They don’t care about what
you’re shooting. They don’t walk up and say, hey,
what’s that camera for? They just see a camera and
go, that can’t be good. And bam. Now, the drug lords that rule
northern Mexico are like most mafia around the world. They’re very wealthy, and
they’re insanely ruthless. But the thing that sets the
Mexican cartels apart from the other mobs is their seemingly
profound love of murder. They put other crime syndicates
to shame with the sheer scale of their killing,
not to mention the gruesome, eye-catching way they present
their murders, with a kind of evil inventiveness. And it’s not just traditional
gang-on-gang violence, either. The cartels kill anyone and
everyone in their way. Rivals, witnesses, journalists,
politicians, and police are all targets. And rather than hiding the
bodies like most criminals, they actually want
you to see them. And they want you to know
exactly who did it. In fact, the war on drugs in
Mexico is so violent that its body count is almost 10 times
that of American soldiers killed in the real wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan. And in a country where it’s
supposedly illegal to own guns, the narcos are armed
to the teeth with state-of-the-art weaponry, 90%
of which are smuggled in from the United States, which is
something we got to see firsthand as soon as we
arrived in Juarez. FORENSICS DEPARTMENT HEAD:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] SHANE SMITH: We came in here,
and we saw this huge bunker. And we’re like, oh, this is
where they hold all the guns and all the drugs and
everything, in this big, massive concrete bunker. And they’re like, no, no. The drugs and the guns are
here in the trucks. That’s a nightclub called
The Sphinx. So last night, the police caught
these guys trying to smuggle in 268,000 rounds of
ammunition in a truck with Oklahoma plates. It was driven by a
guy from Dallas. Over a quarter of a million
rounds of ammunition. This is the kind of firepower
that they have. This is a 30-caliber Browning,
which shoots super fast and can shoot through
armored cars. And then they have this
antiaircraft .50 cal. Can I pick it up? SHANE SMITH: Shit, I did. I put my finger on it. I’m going to get in trouble. They just confiscated
these weapons, and I touched the .50 cal. And they haven’t dusted
them for prints yet. So now my prints are
on a murder weapon. Not good. MALE SPEAKER 1:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] SHANE SMITH: These look like
they’re from America. America America, America. All the guns are from America. They’re all homicides
[INAUDIBLE]. They’ve tested them out? MALE SPEAKER 1:
[SPEAKING SPANISH] SHANE SMITH: Oh, sorry. [GUNSHOTS] SHANE SMITH: That was loud. It smells very strong. Holy Jesus. I knows this doesn’t look like
crazy, but you can smell, wow. It’s a lot of drugs. Drugs and flak jackets. So this is sort of a rustic
type of smuggling called a burrero, which is
like a donkey. And they just walk through
the desert with the pot on their back. So the market for the
drugs is America. The market for the weapons
is here in Mexico. And they go like this. But when you look at this– like
.50 cals, assault rifles, military-grade machine guns– you realize, OK, how do the
police fight them, let alone regular people, let alone
Mormons, who aren’t allowed to own guns? It’s crazy. So we’re about 200 miles south
of Juarez now, and we’re out in the middle of nowhere. This is the narco
superhighway. There’s actually 300 different
smuggling trails right through here. There’s no big wall
or anything. You can just walk off into
the desert with your pack full of cocaine. And then all of a sudden,
coke’s in Williamsburg. And hipsters are doing coke. As you’re out here, it kind of
dawns on you that there’s nowhere to go. Like if something happens, or
if someone even chases us, where are we going to run to? Because you can’t trust
the police. You especially can’t trust the
local police because they’re all corrupt. So basically right now, it’s a
straight shot to the Mormons, their guns, and their God. MITT ROMNEY: My dad had been
born in Mexico, and his family had to leave during the
Mexican revolution. He had big dreams. We were Mormons. And growing up in Michigan, that
might have seemed unusual or out of place. But I really don’t remember
it that way. My friends cared more about what
sports teams we followed than what church we went to. SHANE SMITH: So we’re on our
way down here to colonial Juarez, which is in northern
Mexico, in Chihuahua state. A lot of people may know that
Romney and his family are actually from here. His father was actually born
here in a Mormon colony. But maybe what they don’t know
is that these Mormon colonies are still here, and they’re
actually fighting the narco cartels, the drug cartels, that
run this whole region. They’re standing up, and
they’re fighting the kidnapping and the violence
and the crime. So the question is, what are
the Mormons doing down in Mexico in the first place? Mormons originally came down to
Mexico in the late 1800s, after the American government
forced the Mormon church to ban polygamy. The problem with this is that
Joseph Smith, the prophet of the religion, held that polygamy
was actually a divine commandment. He believed that you can only
reach the highest level of the celestial kingdom, or heaven, if
you were actually a partner in a plural marriage. So basically, the more wives
you had, the better heaven would be. And rather than give up their
place in heaven, many moved down to Mexico to continue to
practice polygamy, and thereby assure their place
in the afterlife. Here in the seclusion of the
Mexican desert, they could practice all the standard Mormon
rituals like baptizing the dead or wearing magic
underwear, but also the more controversial plural marriage. Or, as we were soon to find
out, the outright insane practice of blood atonement. So after about five hours of
some very nervous driving and a couple of very thorough stops
at military checkpoints, not to mention two stops at
drive-through liquor stores to calm our very jangling nerves,
we finally arrived at the Mormon promised land. [MUSIC – “PRAISE TO THE MAN”] SHANE SMITH: We left Juarez,
which is very dirty and poor and very druggy. And then all of a sudden,
you come over this hill. And there’s orchards
and golf courses. And the streets are
laid out nice. They’ve got nice schools. Kids are playing baseball. And there’s angels. And It’s kind of like,
[SINGS HEAVENLY REFRAIN]– you know, we’ve come
to God’s country. Because it’s beautiful here and
they obviously have money. So this is why they’re being
targeted by the narcos. And this is why they
have to fight back. So now we’re going to go meet
some Mormons who are actually fighting the narco cartel. This is Brent LeBaron’s farm. They are sort of famously
secretive about their weapons, their fighting, because they
don’t want to be targeted anymore by the cartels. But we’re going to go
meet him and see if he’ll show us around. Brent? BRENT LABARON: Yeah,
how’s it going? SHANE SMITH: Shane Smith. BRENT LABARON: Brent LeBaron. Nice to meet you. SHANE SMITH: Nice to meet you. How you doing? BRENT LABARON: I’m
very, very well. SHANE SMITH: This
is your farm. BRENT LABARON: This
is my farm. We farm chili and a little
bit of wheat. All depends the time
of the season. SHANE SMITH: We’ve heard that
the LeBaron family, the LeBaron colony, has sort of been
standing up to some of the narco cartels. BRENT LABARON: Yeah. We’ve had a few run-ins
with them. Don’t like to say too much about
them, but I’d love to show you around. Let’s go. SHANE SMITH: Let’s do it. Now, I didn’t know what to
expect when I first met Brent. And when I did, he
seemed to me more American than most Americans. In fact, I wouldn’t have been
surprised if he told me he played linebacker for Alabama. But when he started to give me
the tour around the cemetery, I realized that his story
was anything but normal. BRENT LABARON: This is the
graveyard where my grandfather and great grandfather
are buried. The original story is they come
down for the cause of plural marriage,
to continue it. You know, Mexico allowed it. SHANE SMITH: So they wanted
to continue polygamy. BRENT LABARON: Yes. My great grandfather, being a
fundamentalist, he broke away from the Mormon church because
he had two wives. That’s when he went to establish
Colonia LeBaron. They established five or
six colonies down here. SHANE SMITH: A colony would
be like a family. BRENT LABARON: A few families. SHANE SMITH: Right. And then your grandfather
had 10 wives. BRENT LABARON: Yes. Had children by 8 of
those 10, but yes. SHANE SMITH: And how many
grand kids did he have? BRENT LABARON: Between grand
kids and great grand kids, they’re probably pushing
the 400 mark right now. SHANE SMITH: Wow. All named LeBaron. BRENT LABARON: All
named LeBaron. SHANE SMITH: Now, having more
than 400 grandchildren might seem extreme to some. But it’s nothing compared to
the shit that Brent’s uncle Ervil got up to. He was a straight up
fucking lunatic. Now, Ervil not only had 13 wives
and over 50 children, but he also used own family,
including his own kids, as assassins. Dubbed “the Mormon Manson,”
Ervil and his family were suspects in over 40 murders. SHANE SMITH: Joel LeBaron was
killed by his own brother, Ervil, because of
blood atonement. BRENT LABARON: Yes. Well, Ervil tried to take over
the church, and he started claiming blood atonement,
the right to kill in the name of God. If you oppose him, he has
the right to kill you. Once Ervil snapped, he just
went on a killing spree. He had his daughters
killed, his wives killed, his sons killed. And it just went from there. He went haywire. SHANE SMITH: So Ervil goes on
this killing spree across Mexico and the United States. And at one point, the Secret
Service is after him because he threatens to kill
President Carter. They finally captured Ervil in
1979 and sent him to prison. And all the killing
stops, right? Wrong. SHANE SMITH: And then after he
dies in jail, people keep on killing for him. BRENT LABARON: He killed up
to 25 people after he died because he left a sort of hit
list, and they kept killing. SHANE SMITH: They
kept killing? BRENT LABARON: Yes. They did. SHANE SMITH: Now, as Brent is
telling me all this, I had to keep in mind that this blood
atonement killing spree isn’t taking place in the
1880s or anything. This is all happening
in the 1980s. BRENT LABARON: My grandfather
ran from him for probably 10 years. I mean, he chased my grandpa
clear to Nicaragua. SHANE SMITH: Your great uncle
was trying to kill your grandfather. BRENT LABARON: Yeah. Verlan M. LeBaron died in a
car accident right out of Mexico City. A lot of people have been
skeptical that actually Ervil had something to do with it. And his last recorded words
were, brother, it looks like we’ve been ran off the road. SHANE SMITH: Wow. That’s some crazy shit. BRENT LABARON: Yeah. It’s just a modern day
Cain and Abel here. SHANE SMITH: Do you think that
that’s one of the reasons why? Because you had this sort of
familial civil war you got tighter as a family, So when
the narcos came after your family, you were sort
of tougher? BRENT LABARON: Oh, definitely. Everyone was a watchman. SHANE SMITH: Now, what he’s
saying here is that because of Ervil, everyone in the LeBaron
clan watched out for everyone else. So when the cartels kidnapped
one of their own, they were ready. Eric LeBaron was only 16 when
he was abducted and held for $1 million ransom. You didn’t pay the ransom. BRENT LABARON: We didn’t
pay the ransom. SHANE SMITH: Even if you could
get the money and paid it, they’re just going
to keep doing it. BRENT LABARON: They’re just
going to keep coming and keep doing it. SHANE SMITH: They’ll just use
the money to buy more guns and get more powerful. BRENT LABARON: Exactly. If we don’t sever the head off
this monster right now, it’s just going to get worse. We had to go to the government
and say, hey. You won’t allow us
to bear arms. But you’re supposed
to protect us. SHANE SMITH: The protest forced
the government to put pressure on the kidnappers. And as is quite rare in these
situations, Eric was returned unharmed after paying
no ransom. However, it also served to
enrage the local drug Lord, named “El Rikin,” who only lived
eight miles down the road from Colonia LeBaron. Now, this is a narco who loves
drugs so much that he actually massacred 18 people trying to
get off the stuff at a drug rehab center. And now, he’s after
the LeBarons. NEWS ANCHOR 1: Two more
Americans dead as a result of the violence in Mexico. Those victims gunned down this
week by drug cartel killers. NEWS ANCHOR 2: We’ve done a lot
of stories about polygamy and a lot of stories about
Mexican drug cartel violence. But we never imagined the two
topics would mesh like this in a very tragic way. SHANE SMITH: The freeing of
one of their own by the LeBarons protesting in Chihuahua
had sent a message to the narcos. They weren’t going
to back down. They weren’t going to submit. They were going to fight. But it didn’t take “El
Rikin” long to send a message right back. BRENT LABARON: So yeah, this is
my cousin Benjamin’s home. This “Rikin” guy actually
ordered the hit on him because of the stand we took. He was a serious criminal. I mean, famously, he got caught
on the American side of the border dressed as Mexican
military, had a shootout with the border guards, and
then came back here. So they came here
to his house. He showed up with 15, 20 guys,
two, three trucks– pickups. Benjamin and his family were
sleeping in the house when these guys come, surround the
house, breaking down his door. Ended up breaking pretty much
most of his windows out. There’s still marks on the door
where they were trying to bash in with guns, whatever
they had. You know, those are sledgehammer
marks. And at that point, they had
threatened his family with a hand grenade. SHANE SMITH: So they said they’d
blow up the family with a grenade unless
he surrendered? BRENT LABARON: Unless
he opened the door. And so he opened the door. At that point, his
brother-in-law Luis come over to see what was going on. He literally showed
up in sandals. He came to the rescue. He was an innocent bystander. SHANE SMITH: So he came here
barefoot with no gun. BRENT LABARON: At all. SHANE SMITH: Against guys who
are armed with machine guns and grenades. BRENT LABARON: Yes. But they beat him and picked him
and Benjamin up and took them about two miles down the
road here and shot them both and left them on the
side of the road. SHANE SMITH: Jesus. So because “El Rikin” put the
hit out on Benjamin, it put enough domestic pressure here
that they would offer him up to the American authorities for
the Mexican incident where he was dressed as the military
with the border police. BRENT LABARON: Very much so. Very much so, yeah. Because I don’t think they had
enough here to hold him here. So they actually shipped
him to the US. SHANE SMITH: And although “El
Rikin” was extradited to America for his firefights with
the border patrol, none of the other 20-plus men
involved in this double homicide have ever
been convicted. But the LeBarons
wouldn’t quit. In fact, Julian LeBaron,
Benjamin’s brother, has since taken up his dead sibling’s
mantle of activism. SHANE SMITH: Shane. JULIAN LEBARON: Julian. SHANE SMITH: Good to meet you. JULIAN LEBARON: Well,
the main thing is, we want to be respected. And in Mexico, nobody’s
respected. We’re not respected by the
criminals, and we’re not respected by the government. “This is for messing with
[INAUDIBLE]’s people” or some stupid shit. I don’t remember what it was. And that’s where they
found them. They shot them four times
in the head each. SHANE SMITH: Shit. JULIAN LEBARON: I think that
most of us felt really thankful that we found them,
because sometimes they’ll take them and torture
them to death. People from our neighboring
communities participated in this murder. Those are some of the
people that are involved with this shit. SHANE SMITH: Really? Those guys are bad boys? SHANE SMITH: Jesus Christ. JULIAN LEBARON: 10 children
under the age of seven were left orphans when that
happened that night. My brother and his
brother-in-law, they were some of the most valuable people
in our community. This can never be acceptable. Never. Because if this is acceptable,
there’s no future left. The community– initially, what
we said is, for every person they kill from
our community, we’ll kill 10 of them. Because we know who they are. And then we said, well, that’s
not a solution, because then you become just like them. SHANE SMITH: So the sun
was going down. It was getting a little
bit late. And the LeBarons told us that
we should get back to our hotel before it got dark. We are going to a hotel that’s
actually in the LeBaron colony, which hopefully will
be a little bit safer. But after you hear stories
like that, you just can’t believe the fear of violence
that these people live under every day. It makes you paranoid to
hear stories like that. So we’re going to go to our
hotel and lock ourselves in. This is a shrine to Jesus
Malverde, who’s the patron saint of drug smugglers,
narcos. So we’re going to
light a candle. This is freaking me out
because I’m very superstitious. That’s him there. Patron saint of the
drug dealers. They all come in here, they
say a prayer, they write a prayer on here, and they say,
please let me get across the border with my drugs. Literally, religion about
drug dealers. Now, the whole time I was
hanging out with the LeBarons, I found myself wondering, how
do you actually protect yourself against narco lords
who employ whole armies of assassins whose sole job is
to kill their rivals? Well, the LeBarons started by
adopting military style tactics and setting up
checkpoints, roadblocks, and watchtowers. BRENT LABARON: We hit
a real big low when they killed Benjamin. It was a real big blow to
our entire community. I was really close
to Benjamin. Knew him really well. SHANE SMITH: After Benjamin was
killed, you’ve set up your own community watch, your
own night watch. And then you built this up, and
you have people watching every night. BRENT LABARON: Every night. So we have– SHANE SMITH: What are
you watching for? BRENT LABARON: Pretty much
suspicious vehicles. We pretty much know everybody. And so if it looks like a
vehicle I’ve never seen before, then it was
getting checked. SHANE SMITH: This watch hut
looks down on one of the main drug trafficking roads. BRENT LABARON: One
of them, yeah. SHANE SMITH: The only
people here with weapons are the criminals. BRENT LABARON: Pretty much. SHANE SMITH: The drug cartels. BRENT LABARON: Rumor got out
that we had high-powered rifles and snipers
and whatnot. SHANE SMITH: And .50 cals
up here and stuff. BRENT LABARON: Well, you know
how rumors can spread. Which was a benefit for us. SHANE SMITH: Yeah, it’s good. It’s a good rumor. BRENT LABARON: It was a really
good rumor for us, you know. I believe that the watchtower
is one of the key points to keeping the bad guys
away from our town. Also, the feds and the military
are in our town. This is their base. We actually had a roadblock, to
where there was one way in and one way out. SHANE SMITH: So you have
barricades, checkpoints, and watchtowers? BRENT LABARON: Yeah. I would say our valley right
here is quite a bit safer than a lot of areas– SHANE SMITH: Casas Grandes,
which is about 30 minutes away, they’re still having
kidnappings and stuff there. BRENT LABARON: Here and there. Before, it was literally
two, three a week. SHANE SMITH: Wow. That’s a lot. BRENT LABARON: That’s
a lot, yeah. So We were never pinpointing
drug cartels or anything else, but when it came to them now
kidnapping our family members, that’s what we took
a stand against. When it comes to protecting our
family, if we have to die doing it, we’re going to. SHANE SMITH: So the LeBarons
made their colony into a little fortress using the same
counter-terrorist techniques that the US Army uses in
Iraq and Afghanistan. And because of it, the killings
and the kidnappings in the Mormon areas actually
died down. But roadblocks and security
checkpoints are only going to get you so far. At some point, if you’re
fighting the narcos, you’re going to need guns. If Benjamin was taken by a bunch
of guys with weapons, they were unarmed, how are you
supposed to defend yourself? BRENT LABARON: Well, there’s
really no law in Mexico that gives you the right
to bear arms. Legally, the quickest and best
way is through a gun club. SHANE SMITH: Now, in
Mexico, it’s nearly impossible to own a gun. In fact, one of the only legal
ways to do so is to go through the extremely difficult process
of starting a gun club or a shooting range. Why don’t you have
your own shooting club in Colonia LeBaron? BRENT LABARON: Our ex-mayor
wouldn’t sign the papers we needed. We had all the first
members on a list. Well, he turns around
and shows it to our bad boy buddies. SHANE SMITH: You’re trying to
arm yourselves, and he’s working for the cartels so
you can’t arm yourselves. BRENT LABARON: Exactly. Pretty. Much. SHANE SMITH: Where is he now? BRENT LABARON: He’s in prison. SHANE SMITH: There’s 15 million
illegal assault rifles estimated in Mexico. I mean, the thing is,
if you have 20 guys with assault rifles– Maybe I’m going to go for
one of those turkeys. Oh yeah. I’m going to get one of them. No. So the LeBarons finally decided
that if it continued to be illegal to own weapons,
which meant criminals were the only ones that had guns, that it
was time to change the law. Alex LeBaron, who’s now a
congressman, is determined to protect his colony from
the cartels, no matter what it takes. Even if it means a shootout
with the Mexican military. ALEX LEBARON: They went
into our farm. We thought they were
criminals. We shot one of them. It was a very sad incident,
but it gained a lot of respect for us. SHANE SMITH: You outshot
the military. ALEX LEBARON: We outshot
the military. We got phone calls from heads of
the criminal organizations after that incident. And they told us they were proud
of us to some degree. People in drug organizations,
and including the same military, know that we
have weapons because we’ve been saying it. We have illegal weapons
in our community. Come in and find them
if you want. We buy them in the states. We know we traffic
them illegally. But that’s the only
way to defend yourself in this country. In order to get access to a
weapon here in our country, it would cost you up to $10,000. And that wouldn’t even be
through a legal way. SHANE SMITH: So the majority of
the weapons being used by the narcos are coming
from America. ALEX LEBARON: Absolutely. SHANE SMITH: And the money
is coming from America. ALEX LEBARON: Absolutely. I think the Americans need to
really understand that any policies that are implemented
in the United States impact our country. SHANE SMITH: So the money
for all these guns is coming from America. The guns themselves
come from America. The coke is being
sold in America. But the war is being
fought in Mexico. And considering 1,300 people
were killed in the region just this past August alone, in
northern Mexico, self-defense has truly become a matter
of life and death. BRENT LABARON: In the last
while, it’s actually calmed down quite a bit. I haven’t heard of that many
kidnappings lately. Usually, it was like, boom. Every other day, oh my goodness,
there was another kidnapping, you know? The Joneses got kidnapped. Like, Romney got
kidnapped, or– just someone you affiliated
with. SHANE SMITH: Now, it’s hard to
picture a place that’s so fucked up that not that many
kidnappings is a sign that things are going well. But in northern Mexico,
everything is relative. The sobering reality of it is,
in Mexico, in 2011 there were 49 kidnappings a day. BRENT LABARON: Things have
actually kind of calmed down enough to where they actually
have parties and rodeos and whatnot. SHANE SMITH: So they’re having
this rodeo because a dude lost his leg? BRENT LABARON: Yeah, one of the
cowboys lost his leg, and they’re doing a benefit
for him. ANNOUNCER: [SPEAKING SPANISH] SHANE SMITH: One of the things
that we were worried about before we came here was people
knowing that we were here, people knowing that
we were shooting. And now we’re in front of the
whole town in a town where they used to have three or
four kidnappings a week. And we’re just parading in
front of everyone with a camera going, turn the music
off, [INAUDIBLE]. ANNOUNCER: [SPEAKING SPANISH] SHANE SMITH: They’ve just
announced to the whole town that we’re here shooting. In the most dangerous town. In Chihuahua. I’m just going to get drunk. Woo! Let’s put that on. SHANE SMITH: Now, hanging out
with the LeBarons and play acting as a cowpoke relaxed
us a little bit. As did the booze. I’d like to say “cheers” to the
LeBaron family because you guys fucking rock. BRENT LABARON: To the
LeBaron family. SHANE SMITH: The
LeBaron family. Good times, good friends. MALE SPEAKER 2: Salud. SHANE SMITH: Cheers, cheers,
cheers, cheers. [HOOTING AND SHOUTING] SHANE SMITH: We’re all in
it together, here we go. MALE SPEAKERS:
[SINGING DRUNKENLY IN SPANISH] SHANE SMITH: We had a nice
lunch, got a bit drunk, and sang some songs together. It was fun. MALE SPEAKERS:
[SINGING IN SPANISH] SHANE SMITH: After drinking
for a bit with Brent, he suggested we go on a ride-along
on the nightly patrol of the LeBaron colony. Now, I was picturing a pickup
truck with a CB and a couple of good ol’ boys in the back. But what we got instead was some
heavy, heavy business. What are we doing right now? BRENT LABARON: So we’re just
going to take on a routine route that they normally take. And then they’ll probably do
a security checkpoint for a little while. And maybe check some suspicious vehicles or something. These guys use our town as
a base because they trust everyone here. SHANE SMITH: One of the things
that’s pretty crazy is you’re driving through with pickup
trucks with four armed guards in the back and two guys in the
front, all with machine guns, for a town of
1,200 people. So shit is serious. So the federales kept
stopping people. And they didn’t seem to mind
us riding along with them. Until they roadblocked
the actual highway. Which, remember, is one of the
main drug routes into America. The cops are going to
stop some cars and look for some drugs. Then as the sun was going down,
they warned us that we should leave because it was
very dangerous to even be seen with them. Because as it turned out, riding
around with them on the back roads is one thing. But stopping actual
drug runners on the highway was another. You want a beer? Back at the hotel, we realized
that our fun, boozy afternoon had some unforeseen
consequences. About an hour ago, a black
pickup sort of drove by really slowly. And then kind of sped off. Black trucks like the ones
Julian had pointed out earlier had actually stopped, taken
pictures, and checked us out. And all a sudden, our LeBaron
run around town drunk time didn’t seem so smart anymore. All right. So we have to leave now
because we shot today at the rodeo. And then we did a drive-by
with the cops. So everybody in town knows
that we’re here. And then we’ve just had a black
truck with black windows stop, pull up, check us
out, then drive off. And a black truck, I just found
out, came by and took pictures of us before
I got here. So we have to go to another
hotel that we’ve arranged, which is crazy. So we took off. And when we called Brent to tell
him we had left, I half expected him to say, hey,
you’re overreacting. It’s nothing. But in actual fact,
when he heard the story, he said, oh yeah. You should get the fuck
out of Dodge. [ROOSTER CROWS] SHANE SMITH: Now, because
Colonia LeBaron is so close to the American border, they’re
totally affected by our immigration policy. And of course, our
war on drugs. If America sneezes, Mexico
catches cold. And because of this, they’re
extremely interested in American political policy. You have narco cartels. You have a drug route. You have illegal immigration. So all of these problems. Who do you think should
be the next President of the United States? BRENT LABARON: Mitt Romney has
a great, great policy. SHANE SMITH: Now, are
you just saying that because you’re Mormonish? BRENT LABARON: His ties, his
people, his family lives right across the mountain here. You should probably meet them. SHANE SMITH: Now, when Brent
says “his family,” he means presidential candidate
Mitt Romney’s family. Now, we knew that his father,
George Romney, had been born into a Mormon colony
in Mexico. But not that they still
had an active Romney colony here in Chihuahua. So the Romneys still live
here across the valley? BRENT LABARON: Yep. They’re some great guys. Just really like them. Golf with them quite
often, and just some really cool guys. SHANE SMITH: So we went across
the valley to check them out. KELLY ROMNEY: Nine holes
with two par fives and two par threes. And the rest are fours. Pretty nice greens, huh? SHANE SMITH: Beautiful. How did this golf
course start? KELLY ROMNEY: We just got a
group together that liked to play golf and copied other
golf courses, put in a sprinkling system. When the violence started, we
lost quite a few members. Just like in Casas Grandes,
a lot of people moved out. SHANE SMITH: You play here with
some of the LeBarons from Colonia LeBaron? KELLY ROMNEY: Yeah. Some of the guys come
over here and play. SHANE SMITH: And who’s better? The LeBarons or the Romneys? KELLY ROMNEY: The LeBarons. I don’t know what they’re
eating over there, but– [LAUGHS]. SHANE SMITH: So how long have
the Romneys been here? KELLY ROMNEY: 1885. My great grandfather, Miles Park
Romney, was one of the original people that
came here. Mitt is a relative. He’s a second cousin. SHANE SMITH: So his dad
was born in Chihuahua? BRENT LABARON: He was born
in Colonia Dublan, about 15 miles from here. Their family left, and they
stayed in the United States. They didn’t come back. You know, I remember his father
ran for President of the United States in ’68. Or at least he was
a candidate. His citizenship was
questioned. Because he was born here in
Mexico, but he was born of American parents. SHANE SMITH: And do you think
that this craziness around the run-up to the election, is
that bringing too much attention, or? KELLY ROMNEY: I think one of the
reasons it’s brought a lot of attention to here is because
of Mitt’s position on illegal immigration. SHANE SMITH: Right. Now what’s ironic about this
is that Mitt Romney, whose father was born in Mexico and
would be considered the poster child of the Dream Act, actually
has one of the staunchest views on immigration
in his already conservative Republican Party. MITT ROMNEY: And I’ve indicated
I would veto the Dream Act if provisions included
that people who are here illegally, if they go to
school here long enough, get a degree here, that they can
become permanent residents. I think that’s a mistake. SHANE SMITH: Now, it seems a bit
weird for a person who’s essentially a first generation
immigrant to have such harsh views on immigration. It’s kind of like, “Methink
thy dost protest too much” kind of deal. And his own cousin Kelly, who
although he supports Mitt for president, thinks that
his position on immigration is wrong. KELLY ROMNEY: I think
he needs to change. Being born and raised in Mexico,
and especially since NAFTA, I think the United States
is partly responsible for the increase in illegal
immigration we have. SHANE SMITH: Right. So America makes policy. Then all of a sudden, northern
Mexico gets screwed up. KELLY ROMNEY: That’s right. Give amnesty to those that are
out there that are working legitimately and have a job,
come up with a guest worker program, and let these people
go out there and work, and then come home and take
care of their family. Because basically, they’re
starving to death here in Mexico. SHANE SMITH: In fact, it’s so
bad that for many people, there’s only really
two options. One, sneak into America. Or two, work for the cartels. You know, didn’t some farmers
go up from the farms and go into the mountains and
start growing drugs? KELLY ROMNEY: Yeah. A lot of them have gone into the
mountain areas, and they grow drugs there. SHANE SMITH: And now we’re
sitting here going, OK, well, what are we going to do? KELLY ROMNEY: What are
we going to do? Exactly. You know? I wish Mitt would make
contact with us. And I really think that
we could help him. SHANE SMITH: And as I would
later realize, contacting the Mexican side of his family would
probably be the last thing that Mitt Romney
would do. MITT ROMNEY: I think marijuana
should not be legal in this country. I believe it’s a gateway drug
to other drug violations. The use of illegal drugs in
this country is leading to terrible consequences. SHANE SMITH: Now, we all know
Mitt Romney’s stance on drugs. But it was interesting to hear
Kelly’s thoughts on the drug war, considering it affects
him every day. KELLY ROMNEY: To me, this used
to be the most peaceful place in the world. Yeah, man. I used let my kids go to Nuevo
Casas Grandes, go to the shows, go to dances,
go to parties. But now, you keep close watch. And it all has to do with the
drug violence that it started. When they started the
war on drugs, the violence just escalated. Most of the problems
that we have around here are drug related. And there’s been some
kidnappings and some killings from drug-related things. SHANE SMITH: Have there ever
been any Romneys kidnapped? KELLY ROMNEY: Yeah, my brother
was kidnapped three years ago in May. I think they kept him
for two days. Took him to a cave up
in the mountains. We paid a small ransom. It wasn’t a lot. They were mainly punks. They weren’t really
professionals. SHANE SMITH: And most of the
weapons that are here in Mexico are illegal weapons. And most of those illegal
weapons are coming from the States. KELLY ROMNEY: Yes. Fast and Furious, I’m sure
you heard about that. SHANE SMITH: Now, the Fast and
the Furious scandal he’s talking about refers to a case
where the American government gave thousands of guns
to the cartels in order to track them. Then, they proceeded to lose
track of them until they surfaced again in the murder
cases of American agents. KELLY ROMNEY: What, did they
think they were going to be able to keep control of them? Or keep track of them? Nonsense. I don’t know what in the world
they were thinking in sending all those weapons to Mexico. SHANE SMITH: And the Fast and
the Furious scandal is just one of many that have seriously
embarrassed the American government. Now, perhaps Mitt’s hard-line
stance on issues like guns, immigration, and drugs
becomes more clear. Because even though his father
was born in Chihuahua, Mitt surely must want to distance
himself from the region. Because the region is
totally fucked up. And it’s not the first time that
this has been the Romney strategy either. When his father ran for
president, both his citizenship and his Mormon
colony’s polygamist roots were called into question. And. His run for the White House
didn’t last too long. But Mitt Romney has to deal with
his family’s polygamist past, kidnapping, drug wars,
and, in the extreme case of Ervil LeBaron, crazy Mormon
blood atonement. Now, having close familial ties
to all this shit does not a good presidential
candidate make. Being on the front lines of
this, what do you think are some of the solutions
to these problems? KELLY ROMNEY: Looking at it from
a perspective of someone living here, we say, well, why
don’t they legalize it in the United States and cut out all
the violence in Mexico? As long as you have the swimming
pool over there, this is going to be the
diving board. SHANE SMITH: So as we began
our long drive back to the border, I had lots of time
to think about what we’d seen in Chihuahua. I thought about the
LeBarons and the war against the narcos. The kidnappings, the murders,
and the lengths they have to go to protect themselves
every day. I also thought about what Kelly
Romney had said about the US being the swimming
pool and Mexico being the diving board. And how similar all this is
to America’s history with outlawing alcohol. So we’re just approaching the
border here back into America. It feels like about a year
has passed since we were here last. As we were driving here from
Chihuahua, I was thinking about how prohibition in America
led to the rise of the mob, the Al Capones,
the Lucky Lucianos. Our war on drugs, our
prohibition against drugs, has caused the same thing. You see it down here. It’s the sort of blunt
head to the hammer. It’s the rule of the thug. You have $200 assassins. And as long as there’s
prohibition, it’s going to continue. The war on drugs is a failure. There’s never been more drugs in
America, and they’ve never been cheaper. Or better. Or higher quality. And as we sat for hours at the
border waiting to get back into America, I thought about
the fact that Mitt Romney might just be the
next President of the United States. MITT ROMNEY: God
bless America. Thanks, you guys. SHANE SMITH: Now, polygamy and
kidnapping not withstanding, if he wins, he’s going to have
some hard decisions to make about decriminalizing
drugs and fixing our immigration problem. Because if he doesn’t, Mexico,
his Mormon brethren, and perhaps even his own flesh
and blood, are going to pay the price.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *