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Venezuela mobs kick, burn thieves in lynching epidemic

• https://www.yahoo.com

Caracas (AFP) - Swearing in fury, the crowd strips the man naked and stomps on his head as he sprawls on the ground.

"You want things that come easy? Then take this, you bastard."

In Venezuela, this is what robbers get when they are caught by passers-by.

It is not just the country's economy and political system that are sick, but society itself, experts say. An epidemic of lynchings is one of the most gruesome symptoms.

- 'Justice' -

AFP journalists filmed a lynching close-up in a busy street in the capital Caracas.

A witness says he stopped the man who had tried to rob a woman at gunpoint in a bakery. Then the mob took over.

"You're lucky we didn't burn you," a voice yells, as police lug the man, limp but still breathing, into the back of their car.

The crowd yells in satisfaction -- but not at the man's arrest. They think they are the ones who have done justice here.

"Their aim is to kill the person before the police arrive," says Marco Ponce, coordinator of the Venezuelan Social Conflict Observatory (OVCS).

The body says some 60 people were recorded as killed in lynchings in the first five months of this year alone.

Last year there were 126 such killings -- a surge from the 20 reported in the previous year, coinciding with the worsening of political tensions and economic chaos.

"In lynchings, citizens let out their anger in the face of a state that is not defending their right to justice," says Ponce.

"They think they are dispensing justice, and they do so with anger, so they go as far as killing the person."

- No pity -

Caracas resident Damaso Velasquez recalls taking part himself in a separate lynching.

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