Crime and killings are becoming rampant in what was once a rich and safe nation, as police – and the media – look the other way while local mobs take things into their own hands, violently and often unjustly.
Roberto Bernal’s murder didn’t even make the headlines in the local news, horrific as it was. Once a professional chef, he had been out of work, and he and his wife were struggling to make ends meet and feed their three children. He is described as a good man, had served in the army, and just sent religious texts of encouragement to many of his relatives the night before he was killed.
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — 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.”
A youth pastor happened to come along as Bernal was being burned, whipped off his jacked and smothered the flames. For this, the mob threw bottles at his head.
Bernal was taken by ambulance to a hospital, and was able to whisper to his wife that the old man had mistaken him for the thief. He died two days later. Through her continual prodding of the police, they have arrested the man who poured the gasoline.
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