Today, Felix Rodrigo Sanabria completes one month of a hunger strike amid the squalid conditions of La Tramacua. La Tramacua is the first prison built under a US designed program to restructure Colombia’s prison system and increase its capacity by 40 percent. The Alliance for Global Justice has just received an urgent alert from our partners in Colombia, Traspaso Los Muros, saying Sanabria is in dangerously bad health, having lost over 28 pounds in a hunger strike that began under already harsh conditions. He has also received multiple death threats.
Sanabria has two demands:
1) That La Tramacúa’s political prisoners be separated from the general population, where they are being preyed upon by paramilitary prisoner gangs that are armed by and allied with prison guards;
2) That he be transferred immediately to La Dorada Penitentiary in Ibague because of the numerous death threats he has received.
WHAT TO DO:
1) Copy and paste the following sample letter, or write your own, to US and Colombian authorities:
“I am writing to express my concern for the life of Felix Rodrigo Sanabria, a political prisoner engaged in a hunger strike against the inhumane conditions at La Tramacúa Prison in Valledupar, Colombia. Sanabria has been subjected to numerous death threats and abuse. I support his demands:
· that La Tramacúa’s political prisoners be separated out from the general population where they are subject to attacks by paramilitary gangs;
· that Sanabria be moved to La Dorada Penitentiary in Ibague since his safety is compromised due to the many threats against his life at La Tramacúa.”
La Tramacúa was designed and funded by USAID and the US Bureau of Prisons. Beatings and torture are common, meals have been documented to be rotten and contain fecal contaminants, and prisoners are allowed access to running water only 10 minutes a day on average.
I ask that you use your influence to see that these demands are met and that conditions are improved at La Tramacúa.”
We are asking you to send this email to your Representative and Senators and to relevant Colombian officials.
To contact Colombia’s Ministry of Interior and Justice, INPEC, General Prosecutor, and National Public Defender, please copy and paste the following email addresses:
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
2) Please download and circulate AFGJ’s petition demanding better conditions at La Tramacua. Send the filled out to petition to the address at the bottom of the form or to AFGJ/Tramacúa Campaign, PO Box 2815, Tucson, AZ 85702
According to our Colombian partners, Traspaso Los Muros – Beyond the Walls, there are over 7,500 political prisoners in Colombia. Political prisoners are defined as: Prisoners of Conscience; Prisoners arrested on the basis of frame-ups and paid testimony; and Prisoners of War who are members of groups involved in armed struggle. Prisoners of War are included among the political prisoners because at the root of this struggle is a political and economic cause that can only be adequately solved by a political, not military, solution. Some 6,500 to 7,000 of the political prisoners are unionists, students, members of opposition parties, journalists, citizens of rural, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, and other segments of nonviolent resistance. An estimated 500 prisoners are captured combatants from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and an unknown number are from the Army of National Liberation (ELN) and other armed movements. Hunger Striker, Felix Rodrigo Sanabria is a Prisoner of War and has been in jail since his capture in 2000.
The following is from a report from the political prisoners of La Tramacúa’s Tower Five that gives some idea of the prison’s conditions:
“The food service system is one of total indignity, as is publicly known in this graveyard of liberties called ‘Tramacúa’, since thus it is demanded and oriented by the US Federal Bureau of Prisons, whose doctrine orders the quantity and quality of the food. Only the basic minimum is permitted in order to survive and not die from physical hunger because, according to them, here there are only terrorists and the anti-social….For this they add the contamination of foods with fecal material, as was proven with laboratory studies recently realized by the Health Ministry of Valledupar, a situation that has been repeatedly denounced by the prisoners’ Committee for Human Rights. Also, it is a constant that the food supplies may be in a state of decomposition-meat with worms, poorly cooked, raw or rotten, and including that on the tablecloth can be seen to swim larva and worms that are submerged in the receptacles the prisoner must use to drink and eat for physical hunger and thirst without having eaten and thus avoiding that he might protest….
For such reasons, 70% of the population remains sick, with strong illnesses of the stomach-constant diarrhea and vomiting, gastric ulcers, headaches and all kinds of gastrointestinal diseases….
When they punish us up to a week without water, the chaos is total, since there are three toilets for 170 prisoners that in only a short while remain absolutely full of fecal material, obliging us to have to do our physical necessities in the drains of the patio, in the open air and in view of the population because in a site so narrow, there is nowhere and no way to avoid it. In order to try to remedy the problem we are obliged to collect the urine in a receptacle, with which one empties themselves or defecates in whatever element so he might empty it through the window when we are in the cells. It is in this way that we are invaded by the flies and that the putrefaction ferments in the sun. Meanwhile the jailers and directors turn deaf ears to the clamor of the prisoners.”
“La Tramacúa”: Colombia’s Abu Ghraib
The “New Penitentiary Culture”: US Designs on Colombian Jails, How USAID, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the School of the Americas Have Impacted Colombia’s Prison System