LA PAZ – Soldiers and additional police have been deployed in the border town where two Brazilians accused of murdering three local residents were lynched earlier this week, the Bolivian government said Friday.
Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra said 27 troops were dispatched to San Matias, while the size of the town’s police detachment was doubled to 20 officers.
The soldiers will patrol the border and more troops may be sent, as the government is concerned about the entry of Brazilians with “criminal records,” the minister said.
Brazilian citizens Rafael Max Diez, 27, and Jefferson Castro da Lima, 22, were arrested Monday in San Matias on suspicion of murdering three local men.
The preliminary investigation indicated that Diez shot Pablo Paraba, Wanderley Costa and Edgar Suarez during an argument over the price of some motorcycles the Brazilians were trying to sell, San Matias police chief Edwin Rojas said Monday.
Once news of the arrests spread, hundreds of residents filled the streets to demand vengeance.
Police deployed tear gas to break up the protest, but a mob of some 400 people overwhelmed the officers and occupied the station, where the vigilantes dragged the two suspects from their cell, doused them with gasoline and set them on fire.
Brazilian police and medical examiners came to San Matias on Thursday to exhume and repatriate the victims’ bodies.
Brazil’s government has asked Bolivian authorities to identify and punish those who carried out the lynchings.
Bolivia’s 2009 constitution explicitly recognizes “community justice,” but officials have insisted repeatedly that the charter does not legalize lynching or vigilantism.
Police in San Matias say they have been threatened with death if they try to investigate the lynching, while the town prosecutor was so upset he resigned, according to his superior, Isabelino Gomez.
Gomez, the chief prosecutor of Santa Cruz province, has asked the central government to declare martial law in San Matias, a town of some 12,000 people, including more than 3,000 Brazilians, most of them undocumented.
Drug smugglers, car thieves and other criminals are active in spots along the Bolivia-Brazil border, which extends more than 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles). EFE