Archive for June 15th, 2010

2004: Benjamín Altamirano lynched

Add comment June 15th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 2004, Bolivian Aymara peasants burned to death the mayor of Ayo Ayo.

Disgruntled residents of his fiefdom had accused Benjamin Altamirano (who was also Aymara) of corruption, and received no redress. Likewise had Altamirano complained to the central government of growing threats against him without receiving protection.

The situation came to a shocking head when Altamirano was kidnapped from the capital city of La Paz the night of June 14 and driven overnight to his home in Ayo Ayo. There, according to wire reports,*

[o]fficials said he was then burned to death inside his house, with his body later dragged through the streets and dumped in the town square. Witnesses said he was tied up, set aflame in the town square and hung upside down from a lamppost.

The Andean Altiplano region to which Ayo Ayo belonged was at this time being riven by the Bolivian gas war, a social conflict that would ultimately force the resignation of neoliberal President Carlos Mesa and lead to the election of leftist** indigenous leader Evo Morales.

From 2003 to 2005, the region (on both sides of the Peru-Bolivia border) was paralyzed with repeated peasant protests and the community expulsion of disagreeable state authorities (other government officials fled Ayo Ayo after Altamirano died).

In the words of one unrepentant Aymara quoted in this Guardian piece,

‘We Aymara carry rebellion in our blood,’ said Ramón Coba, who heads the leading Ayo Ayo peasant organisation. ‘Bolivia is totally corrupt, not just the mayor. All of them should be finished in the same way, if not burnt then drowned or strangled or pulled apart by four tractors… It’s the only way they are going to learn.’

* This one ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 16, 2004.

** Morales, in 2009:

After more than 500 years, we, the Quechuas and Aymaras, are still the rightful owners of this land. We, the indigenous people, after 500 years of resistance, are retaking the power. This retaking of power is oriented towards the recovery of our own riches, our own natural resources such as the hydrocarbons. This affects the interests of the transnational corporations and the interests of the neoliberal system. Never the less, I am convinced that the power of the people is increasing and strengthening. This power is changing presidents, economic models and politics. We are convinced that capitalism is the enemy of the earth, of humanity and of culture.

Morales has floated elevating indigenous “communal justice” actions like Altamirano’s lynching into the stature of de jure law.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Bolivia,Borderline "Executions",Burned,Disfavored Minorities,History,Lynching,No Formal Charge,Politicians,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Ripped from the Headlines,Summary Executions

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