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Citizen justice among indigent Bolivian communities

By Staff writer / January 22, 2009

La Paz, Bolivia

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA – Reporters on the Job: While reporting on Bolivia’s constitutional referendum, I found that one of the issues a lot of people have trouble with is that indigent groups will be able to carry out their own form of community justice if the referendum passes.

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Yesterday I was up in El Alto, a neighborhood above La Paz, the capital. It’s a stronghold of support for the president and most of the people there are indigent.

Outside their stores, they hang scarecrows as a threat to anyone to not rob them. The people I was with told me there were also signs explicitly saying, “If you rob me, I will kill you.”

That’s kind of menacing, but people are saying that kind of thing will get worse if the referendum passes, because it enshrines the ability to use community justice, and it’s still not very well-defined what community justice means to them.

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