A teenage boy accused of theft was stripped, beaten and paraded in the streets of San Cristóbal de las Casas last week in punishment.
The boy allegedly tried to steal either money, a bicycle or both from a house in the La Hormiga neighborhood of the Chiapas city last Wednesday.
When the owner of the house, a woman identified only as Rosa, noticed the theft she called for help from her neighbors. No authority was informed of the alleged crime.
Eyewitnesses said several men entered the boy’s home and dragged him out and stripped him of his clothes.
As the boy cried out, Rosa struck him with a length of rope after which he was exhibited in the streets of the neighborhood in order to make an example of him to others.
The child’s father witnessed the punishment but didn’t intervene for fear of being attacked as well.
After several minutes, the boy was released and allowed to return to his parents.
The incident was filmed, uploaded to the internet and shared on social networks, where everyone but San Cristóbal’s municipal police department saw it.
When questioned by the newspaper El Universal, an official with the municipal administration stated that the municipal police had not heard of the incident.
Nearly a week later, the state Human Rights Commission asked the local Attorney General’s office and the indigenous justice prosecution office to open an investigation.
A municipal official told the Human Rights Commission that he had interviewed the minor, and that the victim of the theft had not requested the intervention of the authorities.
Residents of La Hormiga are known for taking justice into their own hands. The neighborhood is known for catching criminals and punishing them by tying them to posts and flogging them.
It is seen by many in San Cristóbal as “lawless territory” where neither the police nor the army can enter.
Many of its residents are members of the Tzotzil indigenous people who were expelled some 40 years ago for religious reasons from the nearby town of San Juan Chamula.