Otavalo residents invoke indigenous justice, whip suspected thieves and burn their car

May 31, 2022 | 19 comments

Residents of the Puerto Alegre community near Otavalo took justice into their own hands Sunday, beating three suspected thieves and burning their car. “We have had enough of this criminality and won’t allow any more,” neighborhood leader Olander Manzano told a Radio Ilumán interviewer Monday. “We are sending a clear message to all the bad people. If you steal our property you will face the justice of the people What we did last night, we will do to you.”

Puerto Alegre residents surround the burned-out remains of a car owned by one of the suspected thieves.

According to police, two men and a woman, were stripped naked and beaten with sticks, leather whips and nettles by a crowd of about 50 residents. “We understand that the victims committed a number of crimes in recent weeks,” a police commander said after the incident. “We observed the punishment to make sure it did not endanger the subjects’ lives and took them into custody afterward.”

According to Manzano, the three were presented with the charges against them before the beatings began. “We read a prepared document stating their crimes since we wanted them to understand the punishment they were about to receive,” he said. “Our actions were conducted under Article 171 of the Constitution, which gives communities the right to punish and humiliate criminals.”

Following the beatings, the crowd doused a car belonging to the woman with gasoline and set it on fire. According to police, the car had counterfeit tags and the owner had unpaid traffic tickets.

Manzano said the suspects had stolen personal property, including cell phones and backpacks, from eight Puerto Alegre residents, threatening them if they reported the thefts to police. “We didn’t need the police,” he said. “We took matters into our hands under the law and we will do it again if necessary.”

Police identified the alleged thieves as |Venezuelans David V. and Carlos A. and Ecuadorian Mary Fernanda V.

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