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Uproar in Mexico Over Footage of Accused Killer Being Burned Alive

September 6, 1996

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ As dozens of people watched, a man was tied to a tree, doused with a flammable liquid and set ablaze. As he died, writhing, a video camera rolled.

All day Thursday, television stations across Mexico broadcast the gruesome footage of vigilante justice, the latest in a series of incidents in which Mexican townsfolk, fed up with crime, have taken the law into their hands.

Residents of Playa Vicente in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz had accused the man, identified as Rodolfo Soler Hernandez, of raping and strangling a woman last Saturday.

A close-up of the man before the execution indicated he had been badly beaten. Shots taken later Saturday showed him twitching and jerking as flames consumed his body. His corpse finally slumped forward in its bonds.

Veracruz Attorney General Rodolfo Duarte Rivas said Thursday his office had investigated the burning, as well as the videotaping and distribution of the tape.

``We have identified those responsible,″ he said, adding that the body was being exhumed and an autopsy planned as part of a criminal investigation.

No arrests were immediately reported.

Speaking on the television network Azteca, Duarte Rivas said the killing was the act of a few _ not of the whole town _ and that the videotape had been shot in such a way as to falsely indicate a wider participation.

``There is no right of the people to condemn someone to death,″ he said, calling the act an ``illegal execution.″

There have been similar cases in Mexico in recent days.

Last Saturday, residents of Motozintla in southern Mexico overran the town jail, seizing three men before they burned two of them alive on lampposts, Mexico’s official Notimex news agency reported. The men were suspects in several assaults, including the rape of a young girl.

On Monday in Puebla state police saved two other criminal suspects from being taken from their cells and killed, Notimex said.

Residents in the Mexico state town of Tolman recently beat and then held a man suspected of a robbery and shooting for more than a day in their town square, vowing to murder him if any of his victims died of their wounds.

Residents in several of the cases said they were enforcing their own brand of justice because they believed police and courts were corrupt or incompetent.

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