OK, about the lynchings here (Linchiamentos), as they are called Internally:
In a recent 2 week period (Nov - Dec 2009) there were mob killings and burning of thieves in something like 5 cities in Guatemala. I count nearly 20 reported body burnings in that period and as many attempted of the living and very recently deceased.. This is known as "Justicia Maya" and itself is an ancient form of vigilantism with contemporary upgrades. Towns where other burnings had occurred sent "Experts" to educate the Maya populous ("don't forget to bring your water to the execution to counteract the Police's teargas"). The Experts and local liasons go door-to-door in some neighborhoods to assign mandatorily "Shifts" of watchers to follow the thieves and accomplices around-the-clock. In Panajachel where I live, the thieves were followed for 10 days before 'they dropped the hammer'.
The thief was beaten and kicked and after being dragged about town, was killed by the crowd throwing bottles and cobblestones at him, before attempting to burn him by the City Hall (MUNY). As you are well acquainted with this area Andy, at the head of Callejon Santa Elena the mob collected and gasoline doused the thief's 2 sisters and their pregnant friend and just as they were about to be put to the torch a group of Maya women interceded (because one was pregnant, I've been told) and marched the female accomplices to the Police station, past where their brother had been executed. The Police wouldn't release the women to the angry mob (estimates up to 2,000) who now just wanted to burn all 4 together, like in nearby Solola where 3 had been burned a week prior and in 3 other town the week before. The Panajachel Police (here considered corrupt, criminal and ineffective by the Maya - 60 of the pop. - in the majority), sped the 3 women to another undisclosed city and covered their prisoner transport by closing the roads leading in and out of Pana and placing teargas cannisters there and in sites of congregation. Meanwhile, the Mayan mob overturned 4 Police patrol pickup trucks and burned them and set fire to the Police station due to their intercession and as a Vote of NO Confidence. Over 36 years of Civil War here - ending 15 years ago) 230,000 Mayan were killed in Guatemala, so basically the disenfranchised have their own form of extra-governmental authority.
Oh, the Mayor here was encircled a few days later at the top of Calle Santander by a Mayan crowd but was rescued, then yesterday the President of the Republic sped through the town at high speed in a motorcade, not lingering hereabouts.
I love it here and with caveats find it safe here for Travelers and Expats.
All's quiet since, however petty theft against Traveler's occurs as before and is tacitly tolerated by the community. Much the same everywhere else in the developing World.
Back in 1991, during the first U.S. war with Iraq, tourism in Bali Indonesia took a nosedive. The Rolex knock-off watch salesmen would follow for hours to make a sale. After surfing the beach break, to find respite from these aggressive salemen, I would hang out at a warung(resturant). One day, I was sitting on the main drag, when I heard this huge commotion. Dozen, or hundreds of people were yelling, "Copet[thief]...Jiring Jawa [Javanese person]..." in Indonesian and Balinese. A man was running down Jln. Pantai Kuta with a mob running after him. I had paid my bill, and wanted to rubber neck to see what was going on. Well, in the space of 5 or 10 minutes the "thief" was beaten down, and local people were punching and kicking him. The Javanese thief screamed several times before apparently he was knocked out. Out of one of the food stalls along the street, a woman and boy walked up with a small cauldron. They threw this grease and/or water over the head of the beaten thief. The thief died. The police did not show up, despite there being a wel-manned outpost down the street.
At the time, I thought this is insane barbarism. I had nightmares, and worried about mobs possibly running amuk while traveling feral in other parts of Indonesia. Later it occurred to me, that situation was not unlike the justice meeted out on the American Frontier, in the last century. Justice. Delivered. Sure, and swift.