The mob didn't know at first what Roberto Bernal had done, but he was running and that was enough. The AP reports dozens of men loitering on the sidewalk next to a supermarket in Caracas, Venezuela, 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.
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. Reports of group beatings now surface weekly in local media. The public prosecutor opened 74 investigations into vigilante killings in the first four months of this year, compared to two all of last year. And a majority of the country supports mob retribution as a form of self-protection, according to polling from the independent Venezuelan Violence Observatory. The revenge attacks underscore how far Venezuela has fallen, with the lights flickering out daily, and food shortages fueling supermarket lines that snake around for blocks. The economy has come apart, and with it, the social fabric. Read the full story here. (Read more Venezuela stories.)