LA PAZ – Bolivian police rescued a pair of accused robbers from an enraged mob in the central part of the Chapare region before local residents could burn them alive.
The incident occurred early Sunday morning, when two young men identified by the initials J.C.O.H. and E.A.S.P. stole a woman’s motorcycle and were cornered by her neighbors, the Chapare police chief, Daniel Merida, told the state-run ABI news agency.
“A crowd of about 150 to 200 enraged people wanted to kill the two young men by beating them and setting them on fire,” Merida said.
Police were alerted to the lynching by telephone and managed to arrive on the scene in time to prevent the deaths of the two thieves, who had been tied to a post.
After talking with the townspeople for an hour, the officers were able to rescue the two men, one of whom was taken to a hospital in nearby Villa Tunari and the other to a health center in the city of Cochabamba “due to the seriousness of his injuries,” the police chief said.
Police are investigating whether the pair have criminal records and how the woman acquired the motorcycle, given that she did not have a title for the vehicle.
Lynchings in Bolivia often occur and a de facto death penalty carried out by mobs often prevails, particularly in rural or indigenous parts of the country.
The mobs always claim that they are applying community justice reserved for the country’s Indian population, as recognized in the 2009 Constitution, although the charter does not allow for capital – or even physical forms of – punishment.
This year, there have been 32 recorded lynching attempts in which five alleged criminals died, according to a report presented in early December by the national ombudsman’s office.