In most countries, the only way you can punish politicians and civil servants for not doing a proper job is by not voting for them in the next elections, but in Bolivia, they have a thing called “social justice”.
The people of San Buenaventura, a small town in northern Bolivia, recently made good use of their constitutional right to social justice by putting their mayor, Javier Delgado, in stocks for an hour, to let him know that they are not satisfied with his service. Photos of the disgraced mayor sitting on the ground with one leg trapped in the medieval restraining device while surrounded by angry townspeople have been doing the rounds on South-American social media and news sites since late February.
Photo: Radio Fides
On February 25th, mayor Javier Delgado was supposed to inaugurate a bridge built with state and municipal funds, but when he got to the site, he was shocked to learn that the crowd waiting for him was not there to attend the event, but teach him a lesson. Without even bothering to explain what he was being punished for, they just grabbed Delgado and put him in wooden stocks.
“They didn’t even give me the opportunity to find out why they were submitting me to this punishment, but I did not put up resistance knowing that there was a risk of things escalating even further,” the mayor told La Razon. “Later, they gave me the opportunity to explain and then they apologized to me, as they saw that they had been manipulated and misinformed by these people.”
By “these people”, Delgado means his political adversaries and local entrepreneurs who are trying to undermine the work he has done in over two years of service to the community. He claims these people are in the pocket of river transporters and logging companies, the interests of which have been affected by some of his policies.
However, Daniel Salvador, a native of San Buenaventura, told Radio Fides that mayor Delgado had been punished for not fulfilling his commitments to the local community, lying to them and not making them his priority when they ask for an audience.
To make matters worse, this was actually the third time that mayor Javier Delgado got a taste of social justice during his two-and-half year term. The first time, he was put in stocks just a few months after coming into office, while the second time, members of the community took over his office and kept him away for two whole months. Fearing for his life, he fled to a neighboring town, until a commission of indigenous authorities put an end to the conflict.
“I am one of only a few people in the whole country who have been subjected to these traditional punishments,” Delgado complained. I wonder why that is, though…
Photo: Radio Fides
Like many other indigenous communities in Bolivia, the people of San Buenaventura govern themselves according to three basic principles “ama qhuilla, ama llulla, ama suwa (do not be lazy, do not be a liar, do not be a thief)” and resort to social justice whenever someone infringes any of them. Social justice has been included in the country’s constitution in 2009, although it is only acceptable in the case of minor crimes, like trespassing private property or cattle theft. Serious crimes still have to be referred to the courts.