Mob Destroys Vehicles, Loots Police Station in Bolivia

LA PAZ – A vigilante mob destroyed at least four vehicles and looted a police station in eastern Bolivia after a failed attempt to lynch a suspected murderer, officials said.

National Police commander Gen. Oscar Nina said the incident occurred Thursday night in Minero, a hamlet 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Santa Cruz, after officers arrested a suspect in the killing of a taxi driver.

According to Nina, several local residents who had learned of the arrest went to the station to demand that police officers hand over the suspect.

When they refused, “the enraged mob clashed with police, burned the (station) and carried away furniture, computers, motorcycles,” he said Friday, adding that provincial authorities sent 30 officers to “rescue” the detainee and six police being held against their will in Minero and took them to Santa Cruz.

Nina said he still did not have a final report on the damages, but local media said the mob destroyed at least three police motorcycles and a police van.

Lynchings are common in some Bolivian communities, especially in the western, heavily indigenous Andean region, because of a lack of confidence in the police or an absence of authorities.

Several lynchings were carried out by indigenous communities last year, including one in the southwestern province of Potosi, where four police were tortured and killed after being accused of abuses.

Some groups say lynchings are an example of the “community justice” traditionally meted out in Indian communities that exist on the margins of state institutions.

President Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, has condemned lynchings even though his administration has promoted the institutionalization of community justice in the constitution that took effect in February 2009.

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