Latin America & Caribbean

Chile newborn 'dies in sect ritual'

Police image of Ramon Gustavo Castillo Gaete
Image caption Police are hunting Ramon Gustavo Castillo Gaete

Police in Chile have arrested four people accused of burning a newborn baby to death in a "healing ritual".

Those arrested include the mother of the child, and the suspects are said to be members of a religious sect.

The three-day old baby was thrown into a bonfire in November in the town of Colliguay because the group reportedly considered it an antichrist.

Their alleged leader, Ramon Gustavo Castillo Gaete, has been on the run since February.

Mr Castillo Gaete, who was known as "Antares from the Light", considered himself a god and believed the world was about to end on 21 December 2012, authorities say.

He is thought to be the father of the murdered baby.

He is accused of convincing the mother, Natalia Guerra, to hand over the newborn for the "sacrifice".

Hallucinogenic drugs

The baby was born in a clinic of Vina del Mar, Miguel Ampuero, vice-chief of the Chilean Investigative Police (PDI), told reporters.

But the authorities soon found out the newborn had never been officially registered.

Image caption The police examined a house to find the charred remains of the baby

"`The baby was naked. They strapped tape around her mouth to keep her from screaming. Then they strapped her to a board. After summoning the spirits, they threw her on the bonfire alive,'' the investigator said.

The fire had been previously prepared in a two-metre deep hole in the ground.

The sect is thought to have been founded in 2005.

Members apparently consumed ayahuasca, a potent hallucinogenic plant used for centuries by South American indigenous peoples, during their rituals.

Investigators say Mr Castillo Gaete had sexual relations with all the women in the sect.

He was last seen before travelling to Peru to buy ayahuasca, authorities say.