GUATEMALA CITY – A mob burned a police station in the northern province of Izabal after cops intervened to stop the lynching of five accused killers, Guatemalan authorities said.
The attack took place Saturday night in the village of El Estor, about 280 kilometers (174 miles) north of the capital, a spokesman for the national police said.
After officers prevented residents from killing five men accused of murdering a shopkeeper, a crowd of more than 300 sacked the police station before setting it on fire, along with three patrol cars.
The police commander in El Estor, Pablo Mendez, told reporters that he sent his men and the five suspects rescued from the lynching party to a station in nearby Rio Dulce for their own safety.
No one was injured in the incident.
Authorities were dispatching reinforcements to re-establish control of the town, the police spokesman said.
Guatemala saw 35 attempted lynchings in the first three months of 2012, none of them fatal, according to information compiled by human rights activists.
Lynchings of suspected criminals increased from 25 in 2004 to 147 in the first 10 months of 2011, the national ombud’s office said last November.
The 651 instances of “people’s justice” during those seven years resulted in 216 deaths – 47 of them in 2011 – and left another 911 victims seriously injured, according to the report.
Vigilante justice as a widespread phenomenon in Guatemala dates from the 1996 signing of peace accords that ended the country’s 36-year civil war.
The absence of police in isolated communities and pervasive distrust of the judicial system are the main reasons for the rising number of lynchings in the Central American nation, analysts say. EFE