Impunity and a weak justice system have led to a surge in the number of suspected criminals lynched by angry citizens, and nowhere more than in the municipality of Ecatepec in the state of México.
By one estimate, it accounts for 40% of the total number of lynchings, a figure that — by another estimate — has reached some 800 in the last four years.
But the latest attack on a suspected thief took a twist this week: he was branded like cattle instead, according to a video that surfaced on social media.
Residents of Ecatepec bound, blindfolded and held the man down while they burned the message “Thief” on his back.
The man was allegedly caught in the act ofstealing fuel from a local family, a commodity that is in short supply in some regions of the country following the closure of Pemex pipelines in an operation against petroleum theft.
In the video, one of the attackers can be heard telling the suspected thief, who is crying in pain, to “shut up” as the iron burns the words into his skin. Another tells him, “[We’re doing this] because you’re a thief, pretty boy. And I’m not going to charge you for the tattoo.”
Article 17 of the Mexican constitution prohibits acts of vigilante justice, which are more and more common with high levels of insecurity and continued impunity.
But like every other crime, it is rarely prosecuted.