The mob didn’t know at first what Roberto Bernal had done, but he was running and that was enough.
Dozens of men loitering on the sidewalk next to a supermarket kicked and punched the 42-year-old until he was bloodied and semi-conscious. After all, they had been robbed of cell phones, wallets and motorcycles over the years, and thought Bernal had a criminal’s face.
Then a stooped, white-haired man trailing behind told them he’d been mugged.
The mob went through Bernal’s pockets and handed a wad of bills to the old man: The equivalent of $5. They doused Bernal’s head and chest in gasoline and flicked a lighter. And they stood back as he burned alive.
“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.”
Vigilante violence against people accused of stealing has become commonplace in this crime-ridden country of 30 million, once one of the richest and safest in Latin America.
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