LA PAZ – Leaders of the indigenous communities in the southwestern province of Potosi that recently lynched four police officers turned over the cops’ bodies to their loved ones in exchange for a commitment not to seek criminal charges against the killers, a lawyer for the families told Bolivian television.
“We haven’t had time to identify them, we’re waiting to reach a safer place to do so,” attorney Johnny Castelu said, adding that the bodies were being taken to police headquarters in the nearby city of Oruro.
The lawyer said that the families had to sign documents dropping any criminal charges against the Indians for killing the police officers in exchange for having the bodies handed over.
“We’ll explain the details to them later. We still feel fearful and pressured by the way this has been done,” Castelu said, while media outlets reported the families entered the town where the lynching took place, Uncia, carrying a white flag.
For nearly two weeks, National Ombudsman Rolando Villena and members of President Evo Morales’ government pleaded with the Indians to hand over the bodies, but to no avail.
The lynching occurred in a region of Potosi populated by the Ayllus Guerreros, or Warrior Clans, who say the four police murdered a taxi driver and extorted other local residents and that the killings were in accord with traditional communal justice.
The Indian leaders offered earlier to discuss returning the bodies if authorities agreed not to investigate the lynchings, but the government rejected the idea.
“There will not be any type of pardon or amnesty. Any crime of this kind has to be investigated, and those responsible (must be) tried and punished,” Interior Minister Sacha Llorenti said Wednesday. “It is absolutely non-negotiable.”
Some Aymara and Quechua Indian communities of the Andean highlands say lynchings are part of the indigenous justice system that was recognized in the constitution enacted last year at the urging of Morales, but the government rejects that argument.
Officials say the recognition of traditional justice is not a license for vigilantism. The government also points to Bolivia’s constitutional ban on capital punishment.
The Warrior Clans are so called because of their nearly 200-year-long history of involvement in sometimes bloody conflicts over land, clashes blamed for roughly 10,000 deaths since 1830, though the most recent round of fighting was nine years ago, when 57 people died. EFE