Friday, November 03, 2006

Frontier justice

In the past few weeks there have been two big stories in the papers about vigilante groups killing supposed malefactors. A few days ago, villagers in an indigenous community, Puesto Nuevo, got together at a meeting and passed a death sentence on a 38-year-old father of six who they believed was a witch. There had been a series of three unexplained deaths in the town and they decided it was this guy´s fault. It was never clear in the articles why they suspected him. The townspeople grabbed the guy, locked him in a trunk and threw it into a bonfire. Two schoolteachers were among those leading the mob. They freely admitted what they had done and said it was just community justice. The authorities are investigating.
A few weeks before that, the mototaxi drivers of a the community of San Julián responded when one of their colleagues was beaten within an inch of his life by robbers. The injured driver named one of his attackers, and the mototaxistas went looking for him. First they found the suspect's brother, 16. They threatened to burn him to death unless he told them where to find the suspect. Then they found the older brother, 17, who was evidently the leader of a group that had been attacking and robbing mototaxi drivers in the area. At least one other mototaxi driver had beeen killed. The mob found a stolen mototaxi at the suspect's house.

The mob led the brothers into the public square where, by now, some 12 hours into the drama, the news media and police had also gathered. But no one dared stop the mob, who put the younger brother on a pedestal for public judgment and beat the other one to death with sticks, stones and fists. All of this was recorded on film.

The photos show the body of the older brother, and the younger brother during his public display, after the beating and in a jail cell, where the public is making fun of him. Photos are from El Deber and El Nuevo Dia.
We of course have our own history of frontier justice for rustlers, robbers and suspected killers Out West, and of racially motivated lynchings well into the 20th century.

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