Photo: Lynchings in Bolivia
An angry mob stormed a jail and lynched a prisoner accused of murdering a man and wounding his wife in a town in the Bolivian region of Santa Cruz, which borders on Brazil and Paraguay, prosecutor Lucio Hinojosa told Efe on Monday.
This is the second lynching registered in Bolivia in the past three days, after on Friday a policeman who was confused with a thief was murdered by residents of the city of El Alto, adjacent to La Paz and one of the poorest cities in South America’s most backward nation.
The victim on Sunday was Sixto Gonzalez, who was suspected of murdering another man last Friday in the town of San Julian, 175 kilometers (109 miles) from the city of Santa Cruz, Hinojosa said.
Police officers captured Gonzalez on Sunday and decided to take him to the nearby town of San Ramon when they learned that people were organizing in San Julian to lynch him, the prosecutor said.
“The people learned of that situation and immediately went to San Ramon ... Practically, the police were overwhelmed. The attempts to persuade (the members of the mob) to abandon their violent attitudes were in vain. The situation was uncontrollable,” Hinojosa said.
Gonzalez was taken back to San Julian by the enraged townspeople and there the mob beat him to death in front of the home of the man he had allegedly killed, without the police being able to stop them.
Hinojosa lamented the small number of police officers in both towns - eight in San Ramon and about 10 in San Julian - and added that if the officers would have intervened “they would have suffered the same fate” as Gonzalez.
On Friday, another mob killed police Sgt. David Guarachi, 33, the second officer to be lynched this year by residents of El Alto, which has about 1 million residents, most of them Aymara Indians, the ethnic group to which Bolivian President Evo Morales belongs.
Guarachi, dressed in civilian clothing, on Thursday attended a party in the El Alto neighborhood of Ventilla.
He got drunk at the party and left the nightclub for a few moments, but when he tried to return he got confused as to where the nightclub was and tried to enter a school, awakening the caretaker, who alerted neighbors of the supposed presence of a thief.
The neighbors captured Guarachi and one of them telephoned relatives of the policeman to demand that they come to the site with documents that would prove that he was not a thief, and he threatened to set fire to the officer if they reported the incident.
The relatives negotiated for two hours, subjected to threats and pressure from the local residents, and finally the latter handed over the body of the officer, “who had no vital signs” and who died Friday morning, Fuentes said.
The head of the Special Force to Fight Crime, Col. Jorge Toro, told local media that 11 policemen had been lynched from the beginning of 2011 to date.
Neighborhood and Indian groups justify torture and murder against alleged criminals by claiming that they are applying the “community justice” established by Morales in the 2009 constitution, although the government denies that the murders are part of that judicial framework.
The political opposition and human rights groups, however, say that no concrete measures have been taken to prevent lynchings.