Published July 25, 2012
Guatemala City – Four accused robbers were killed by a mob in an indigenous community in northwestern Guatemala, authorities said Tuesday.
The incident took place after midnight Monday in a village outside Santa Cruz Barillas, a town about 350 kilometers (217 miles) from the capital, a police spokesman in Huehuetenango province told reporters.
"We are investigating how the events occurred, because there are different accounts from the residents," the spokesman said.
Gen. Rudy Ortiz, commander of the military detachment in Huehuetenango, said that after the lynching, members of the community hid the bodies in scrubland on the edge of the village.
"Some say that it was thieves who were robbing people in the communities, but others say they (the lynching victims) were merchants and it seems there was a mistake," a resident of the village told media outlets.
Two of the victims were identified as brothers Jaime and Rolando Tomas Simon, the Huehuetenango delegate of the Presidential Human Rights Commission, told Prensa Libre newspaper.
Santa Cruz Barillas spent 30 days under a state of siege in May after residents stormed a nearby military post to protest the murder of two of their neighbors, allegedly by employees of a controversial dam project.
Vigilante justice as a widespread phenomenon in Guatemala dates from the 1996 signing of peace accords that ended the country's 36-year civil war.
The absence of police in isolated communities and pervasive distrust of the judicial system are the main reasons for the rising number of lynchings in the Central American nation, analysts say.
Lynchings of suspected criminals increased from 25 in 2004 to 147 in the first 10 months of 2011, the national ombud's office said last November.
The 651 instances of "people's justice" during those seven years resulted in 216 deaths - 47 of them in 2011 - and left another 911 victims seriously injured, according to the report.