Guatemalan Justice

I had just finished my chicken and rice, while Mari was still working on her dinner. I entertained myself by looking out at the water. There was still some light flickering on the lake, as the sun had just set.
A woman ran over, and spoke to everyone in the restaurant. Excitability crosses languages. By the time Mari and I compared notes and decided we picked out the words “over there,” “man” and “white” from her speech, the restaurant manager had jumped on his motorcycle and taken off. Everyone’s eyes naturally followed.
Down the road a few men had gathered and seemed to be talking. Mari kept eating. A few cars had thrown on their hazard lights and pulled over next to the manager’s motorcycle and the gathering of men which had now grown to the size of a group. The women behind our table were standing, looking towards the sight, and talking. From their conversation we thought we picked up the word “caught.” Mari kept eating. The group of men was turning into a crowd when Mari looked in its direction and said “ooh! They just threw a guy to the ground!” while gulping down the last of her meal. We quickly paid and walked towards the commotion. For a flash I thought about the black guy in horror films.
The man on the ground was being held there by 3 others. One held his neck down and a second grabbed at the man’s wrist and shoulder. The third man involved held on to the captive’s shirt, probably knowing he wasn’t necessary in the equation but still wanting to participate. Around him the crowd grew, now involving women, a couple of children, Mari and me. He tried to escape multiple times, but was forced down each instance. A woman appeared with a camera as one of the 3 men held up the man’s face, presumably to get his good side. A rope came out of the crowd, and they tied him up to the guard rail. A minute later 3 police officers arrived, the local news media (photo and film) ushered to the scene by their sirens. After the cameras and videos got their fill, the police took him to their car. They let him stop and get his shoe that had fallen off in the scuffle, as if by that act his dignity could somehow be mended.
We asked someone in the crowd what his crime was. A woman laughed and answered by pointing to a stack of white plastic chairs, about 6 of them. Apparently he was trying to steal lawn furniture. Mari looked at me and reminded me not to steal anything, especially in Guatemala. I thought about all of my college furniture, instantly felt thankful I hadn’t attended University in this country, and assured her I wouldn’t.

Posted: March 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Guatemala | Tags: , | No Comments »

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