Mob justice has been handed down in Caracas, Venezuela, after a crowd burned a man alive after mistaking him for a thief.
Roberto Bernal, 42, was attacked by a mob in the Venezuelan capital. They punched and kicked him until he was semi-conscious before dousing him in gasoline and setting him alight, according to the Associated Press.
Mob justice increasingly common in Venezuela
Bernal was running through the streets of the crime-ridden city and was seized upon by a crowd who thought he was a thief. An old man appeared at the scene shortly after, saying that he had just been robbed.
This was enough for the assailants, who finished off their savage beating by burning Bernal alive. Crime rates have skyrocketed in Venezuela as economic problems place great strain on the social fabric, meaning vigilante justice has become common.
“We wanted to teach this man a lesson,” said Eduardo Mijares, 29. “We’re tired of being robbed every time we go into the street, and the police do nothing.”
People have taken to stealing out of desperation as food shortages strike and the mismanagement of the government of Venezuela is revealed.
“Life here has become a misery. You walk around always stressed, always scared, and lynching offers a collective catharsis,” Violence Observatory director Roberto Briceno-Leon said. “You can’t do anything about the lines or inflation, but for one moment, at least, the mob feels like it’s making a difference.”
Conviction far from secure in ovewhelmed judicial system
Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world, and a recent survey revealed that a majority of people believe that mob justice is acceptable.
After Bernal was burned alive, he was saved by a youth pastor who extinguished the flames. The victim spent two days in hospital but later died due to his severe injuries.
The Venezuelan justice system rarely prosecutes criminals, but pressure exerted by Bernal’s family meant that his case was different. A month after his death, 23-year-old law school dropout Maickol Jaimez was charged with pouring the gasoline over Bernal’s head.
There will be no further prosecutions due to the extreme pressure currently suffered by the judicial system. It is not certain that Jimenez will be convicted of the crime.
The problem is that the judicial system is broken, and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of violent crimes committed by desperate people.
“Everyone needs to be scared,” said Bernal’s nephew, Alfredo Cisneros. “People need to know there is no law here anymore. No one is safe.”
So what exactly was the crime? As the AP notes: