RAPA NUI – Flowers, dances, music along the beach: too often Easter Island gets displayed as an idyllic paradise, full of happy people with colorful lives. Tragic events last week showed another side of the island, when a group of furious inhabitants nearly killed a man and later went on burning down the local court house. What is happening on Rapa Nui?
The tranquility and peace that draws thousands of tourists every year to Easter Island has been interrupted last week by a wave of violence that ended in an attack by a lynch mob on the island´s prison, who were seeking revenge for a 34-year-old man who was stabbed to death last Monday.
After Luis Alberto Araki Pao (34), nephew of the mayor of Rapa Nui, got killed by 51-year-old Juan Alberto Nahoe Hereveri, the situation was already tense. The mayor of Rapa Nui, Pedro Edmunds, told news outlet Biobio Chile that on the island “attacking one person, means attacking his family. After Carabineros at first did not see a reason to bring the inmate to the courthouse, people took to the streets. When the Carabineros finally did decide to bring Nahoe Hereveri to the local court, there were 1,000 people on the streets demanding justice”.
? #Video Incendio consume el Juzgado de Letras y Garantías de #RapaNui tras manifestaciones por homicidio
dos personas muertas de distintos clanes. Carabineros superados por superioridad numérica. pic.twitter.com/PESb7yLp9v
— Canal Sur Patagonia ?? (@CanalSurPatagon) January 30, 2019
Molotov cocktails and lynch mobs
One day after the alleged murder took place, a growing mob outside the police station demanded access to the accused. According to a police chief, the protesters outnumbered the guards by far. At the moment the Carabineros tried to transfer Nahoe Hereveri, the crowd attacked him, hitting him and even stabbing him in the face, according to official reports.
After the mob tried to lynch the man, they set fire to the local courthouse, by throwing a Molotov cocktail inside. According to local police, protesters prevented arriving firefighters from extinguishing the flames, which consumed the entire property plus two other buildings.
Nahoe Hereveri has been brought with a plane to Santiago. At the moment of transport, his life was in danger, and he now is in a guarded hospital.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and made appearances on BBC World Services and ABC News during major events in Chile.