ROSARIO, Argentina – An archbishop in northern Argentina condemned the lynching of a man suspected of abusing and killing of a 9-year old girl.

A mob of around 500 angry inhabitants of the city of San Miguel de Tucuman, 815 miles from the capital Buenos Aires, were filmed beating Jose Guaymas to death last Wednesday.

The 25-year old was suspected in the murder of Abigail Riquel, whose naked body had been found in a field on Saturday.

Archbishop Carlos Sánchez of Tucuman expressed his support for the family of the girl and expressed his shock at the violent way the neighbors decided to do “justice by their own hand.”

“So much violence is a manifestation of impotence in the face of many situations where the State and the justice system were not up to the facts to resolve them promptly,” the bishop wrote in a statement. “Silence, abandonment and complicity are also forms of violence.”

Many observers have said the growing phenomenon of mob justice in Argentina is the direct result of the population seeing the failure of the institutions that are supposed to protect them.

This has been compounded by the release of thousands of inmates – including murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals – in the wake of the  COVID-19 lockdown, with officials citing the prisoners were at extra risk of infection due to prison overcrowding.

Sánchez urged local authorities to commit to curb the rising insecurity in the province.

“We ask the authorities of the three branches of the State to work to solve with clarity, responsibility and concrete actions the problem of insecurity, violence, impunity and injustice,” the archbishop said.

Addressing society at large, he called for “peace and harmony,” while urging politicians to call for “dialogue with the institution of our society so that through listening and expressing ideas, we can seek consensual solutions to find answers in the short and medium term.”

He also urged Catholics to “bear witness to our faith and hope to strengthen fraternal love, …. and through service and reconciliation, sow forgiveness and fraternal charity. Forgiveness leads to peace.”

“Every violence committed against a human being is a wound in the flesh of humanity; every violent death diminishes us as persons,” Sánchez wrote, quoting Pope Francis’s latest encyclical letter, Fratelli Tutti. “Violence begets violence, hatred begets more hatred, and death more death. We have to break that chain that is presented as inescapable.”

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In recent months, there have been at least 20 cases of mob justice in Argentina – though not all fatal.

In 2014, Pope Francis wrote a letter in which he addressed another lynching in Argentina, that of an 18-year-old who was killed by an angry mob after he was allegedly seen stealing a handbag. The attack, which took place in the city of Rosario, was recorded in a 9-second video, which the pontiff saw.

“The scene hurt me… I felt the kicks in my soul,” Francis wrote at the time. “He wasn’t a Martian, he was a boy from our people. True, a delinquent. And I thought of Jesus. What would he have said had he been a referee in this situation? Might he who’s free of sin kick first.”

“Everything hurt, the body of the young man hurt, the heart of those who kicked him hurt,” Francis said. “I thought that we all made that kid; he was educated among us. What failed? The worst thing that can happen to us is forget that scene. May the Lord give us the grace to cry… cry for the delinquent young man, cry also for us.”

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