Drama in Sololá over the weekend
11/2/09 - 12/2/09 75 °F
Given that our internet access is sporadic and getting international news is difficult because those pages don´t tend to open, I´m not sure if this made the news back home. In Sololá, across the lake from where we are, there was some drama over the weekend that ended horrifically. First some context. In Guatemala City, the gangs have been extorting bus drivers for a while now, charging them money to drive through their territory. If they don´t pay, the bus drivers get killed. So, the bus drivers and their families went on strike recently, pleading for more police protection. I don´t think anything has been resolved on that front yet.
Fast forward to Sololá and keep in mind that I´m paraphrasing the stories that I´ve patched together from locals since I have yet to see a newspaper this week (surprisingly difficult to get). About a month ago, three young people from Guatemala City, who are suspected to be tied to gangs there, arrived in Sololá and began extorting the bus and cab drivers. At the end of last week, they killed a bus driver and the person who grabbed the steering wheel to keep the bus from going over a cliff. The police quickly arrested the three people, two young men and a young woman, and put them in jail. Soon, a group of 2000-3000 citizens arrived at the police station and began demanding that the three criminals be released to the public. Obviously the police didn´t want to do that because it was a lynching waiting to happen. So, they held off. The towns people kept the pressure on outside beginning to throw Molotov cocktails and overturning police cars, eventually setting fire to the jail and the overturned cars. The station virtually burned to the ground and the policemen inside narrowly escaped the blaze. When the flames died down the townspeople went through what remained of the station to the jail, which is behind the station. They grabbed the three criminals, took them out in front of everyone, and the mob set them on fire and burned them alive.
After I picked my jaw up off the floor I found out this is the second time in the last year or so that the people of Sololá have taken justice into their own hands, burning people alive after attacking the police station. According to locals, the people have so little faith in the justice system and the police that they feel they have nothing else they can do if they don´t want to see the criminals set free in a week or a month. In other words, the people think the police are so corrupt in Guatemala they won´t even wait to see if the justice system works before lynching the suspected felons. The most telling thing about the whole situation is how matter-of-factly everyone described it. None of them seemed to have a huge problem with the actions of the mob and chalked it up to justice being served. Even considering the people were probably guilty, it still leaves me shocked and horrified.