LA PAZ – A Bolivian police officer was lynched by an angry mob after he was confused with a thief in the city of El Alto, adjacent to La Paz, El Alto police homicide division chief Maj. Oswaldo Fuentes said.
Sgt. David Guarachi is the second police officer to be killed in a lynching this year by residents of El Alto, one of Bolivia’s poorest cities, Fuentes said.
The 33-year-old Guarachi, dressed in civilian clothing, on Thursday attended a party in the El Alto neighborhood of Ventilla.
He got drunk at the party and left the nightclub for a few moments, but when he tried to return he got confused as to where the nightclub was and tried to enter a school, awakening the caretaker, who alerted neighbors of the supposed presence of a thief.
The neighbors captured Guarachi and one of them telephoned relatives of the policeman to demand that they come to the site with documents that would prove that he was not a thief, and he threatened to set fire to the officer if they reported the incident.
The relatives negotiated for two hours, subjected to threats and pressure from the local residents, and finally the latter handed over the body of the officer, “who had no vital signs” and who died Friday morning, Fuentes said.
The police recovered the body from a hospital in El Alto, where relatives had taken it, and later they arrested the school caretaker and three female leaders from among the neighbors.
Two other people involved in the officer’s death were arrested Saturday and the six defendants appeared before a judge, Deputy Interior Minister Jorge Perez told state radio.
The authorities are “very wounded” by Guarachi’s lynching, Perez said, adding “that this type of situation cannot be repeated.”
“We’re going to order that justice be implacable in this case. Those responsible for this criminal deed must be tried and must be taken where they should be, which is jail,” Perez said.
Another policeman, who also was confused with a thief, was lynched by a mob in another El Alto neighborhood in March.
Two years ago, Indians in the Andean region of Potosi tortured and murdered four police officers whom they accused of blackmail and committing abuses in the area.
Neighborhood and Indian groups justify torture and murder against alleged criminals by claiming that they are applying the “community justice” established by President Evo Morales in the 2009 constitution, although the government denies that the murders are part of that judicial framework.
“These type of acts against innocent people cannot be permitted to be carried out under the pretext that community justice is being applied,” Perez said.
“It has been made clear that that formula doesn’t work. Here we see an innocent person who was brutally whipped and beaten to the point that his life was cut short,” Perez said.
Lynchings and punishment against suspects have been occurring in various spots around the country with greater frequency in recent months after in February two brothers, both journalists, were strangled by criminals when they were going to work.