LA PAZ – A protest at a village in the southwestern Bolivian region of Potosi over the rape and murder of a 4-year-old girl turned into disturbances during which an angry mob looted and destroyed offices of the Police Department and the Child Protection Agency, local media reported Friday.
Hundreds of Llallagua residents marched Thursday to protest the removal of the suspect, a 16-year-old male identified with the initials V.Z.C., to Potosi city, El Potosi newspaper said.
The protesters first set fire to the suspect’s home, then sacked and burned the offices of the Child Protection Agency and the police.
The little girl, who went missing 20 days ago, was kidnapped, raped and murdered.
Her body was found Wednesday at the bottom of a ravine and the suspect was caught while trying to abduct another minor.
The demonstrators demanded that the police hand over the teen so they could bring him to justice their own way.
Police in Llallagua retreated to Potosi city out of “fear of being lynched” by the mob, the regional head of the elite police unit FELCC, Col. Miguel Angel Villarroel, said in comments cited by El Potosi.
With no police in the village, residents decided to enforce a 10 p.m. curfew.
Lynchings of suspected criminals occur frequently in Bolivia.
Vigilantes say they are applying the so-called indigenous community justice, acknowledged in Bolivia’s 2009 Constitution, though the charter also bans the death penalty.
Bolivian authorities and international organizations have expressed their concern about these acts, which often take place in rural areas where police detachments are too small to deal with furious crowds.