The Justicia Comunitaria opened a green way for the legal lynching in Bolivia

On 25th January in 2009. Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia declared proudly: “Today founded the new Bolivia, which is ensure same possibilities for everybody. Bolivia is a lots nations of state, where the culture and justice of ancient nations is admitted equally.”

While Bolivia was a republic, the constitution didn’t alow the vigilante1. But in the provincial village, where there wasn’t police was an ancient habit. In disputed issues the heads of village decided (it called indigena justice). People who moved from this places to big cities, took away this habit. But while in the countryside this habit was working with some control until in the cities transformed into lynching. They hang up straw dolls on the poles in the poor districts like deterrence. It means the thieves count on the most cruel punish, death. The state condemned these acts. When the republic ceased and  the multinational Bolivia founded – Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia – the indigent justice became same as the jurisdiction of state.

The people who live in poor district think they have a right to punish thieves without court of law. Sometimes enough if somebody says about a person is a thief. Serve as an example Omar Mamani’s story. Omar Mamani was lynching in principal square of Alto de la Alianza, which is one of poor part of La Paz. He was a stranger in this district, he lived another outskirts of the city. A woman thought he was one of thieves who attacked her for 10 minutes earlier and when she noticed him, she shouted: “Thief, thief, thief!” Omar didn’t stop, but few minutes later a smaller mass gathered round him and they started to beat. They asked where is the plunder and where is his partner. He had only a dry bread and a litre milk, which are the part of school’s menu. The mass thought that he robbed the nearly school too. It was enough evidence for them.

"In Bolivia everybody speaking about the new justice. But where is the truth?" - María Mamani, mother of Omar Mamani. Photo by Tomás Munita

They hurted him, somebody spilled with inflammable liquid on his body and a woman set fire to him. When the police arrived the mass blocked the road in front of them. When finally they could to put out the fire, Omar was still alive. But few days later he died in the hospital. He was 22.

Each time when the mass lynching, the offenders always explain their action reference to Justicia Comunitaria. Isabel Ortega, the minister of indigena justice said: “Our justice isn’t lynching, isn’t killing. The mob abusing our ancient’s laws.”

Epilogue about the Law of silence: Roland Schultz journalist and Tomás Munita chilean photographer after a tough fight could visit at this lynching’s witnesses. Area residents agreed nobody speak about this visit for neither police nor journalists. [Reference: Geo Magazin, Hungary, 2011]

Ilona Kaszanyi

1 Vigilante is a private individual who legally or illegally punishes an alleged law breaker and not to be confused with vigilant.


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