LA PAZ – Three alleged cattle thieves were lynched by villagers in the Bolivian province of La Paz, local media reported Monday.
The incident took place on Friday in the town of Topoco after six men were surprised by local residents as they were stealing cattle. After a pursuit, three of the men were apprehended and lynched by their captors, Radio Erbol reported.
Once they were dead, the three men’s bodies were burned, according to the radio report, which added that Bolivia’s Special Crime Fighting Force (FELCC) had been informed of the incident.
Lynchings of alleged criminals occur relatively frequently in Bolivia and, as magistrates have warned, their occurrence shows that the death penalty is regularly imposed by angry crowds around the country.
The mobs regularly argue that they are applying so-called indigenous community justice, something that is recognized in the 2009 constitution but which does not allow the death penalty or physical punishment to be imposed.
Both Bolivian authorities and international organizations, including the UN, have expressed their concern over these acts, which the police are often unable to stop, given that many of them are carried out in rural areas where there are few law enforcement officers that might be able – or willing – to confront the furious lynch mobs.
According to human rights defense organizations, there are between 10 and 20 lynchings in Bolivia each year and a larger number of attempted lynchings.