Terrible Conditions Persist in Colombian Prison – Strike Continues

The terrible situation at La Tramacúa (the High Security Penitentiary of Valledupar, Colombia) continues. Thanks so much to AFGJ supporters who sent emails about this situation. Already, international pressure has had some effect. On Saturday, May 14th, the Regional Public Defender’s office visited the prison and verified the grave and unsanitary conditions. Meanwhile, the struggle has escalated and the need for solidarity has become even more acute.

We are aware that many of the emails people sent bounced back. We have often had the experience that emails to certain Colombian government offices stop going through shortly after an alert is issued. We can only hope that this is because their mailboxes have filled up with responses. It’s still good to send the emails because some of them do get to their designated recipients. However, the situation is so pressing we are asking people this time to call the embassy and to contact their Representative.

Since the last alert, 60 of the 300 striking prisoners have made make-shift hammocks and harnesses and are suspending themselves in mid-air from the second-floor balconies of various towers where their cells are located. Over the weekend, guards AGAIN attacked the prisoners of Tower Four with tear gas. They were further ordered to stop administering medicines to one of the prisoners who had been a victim of torture just four days earlier. A captain of the guards threatened that unless the strike was ended, prisoners would be met with force today, Monday, May 16th. Meanwhile, hunger striker Hernan Rodriguez Díaz, who has sewed his own lips shut to prevent force-feeding, is in his 15th day of a hunger strike which he has maintained even while being beaten and exposed to the hot sun for hours at a time.

The demands of the prisoners have also escalated. This is a prison where water is routinely shut off as a form of collective punishment, where even on “good” days, prisoners are allowed access to water only ten minutes a day, where food is often rotten and contaminated with fecal matter, where torture, beatings, “questionable” deaths and suicides of desperation have become all too common. No longer are the prisoners demanding better conditions but that they be transferred from La Tramacúa and that the institution be altogether shut down. They are also calling for the International Red Cross and the Catholic Church to come to Tramacúa and verify the conditions.

CALL TO ACTION

The Alliance for Global Justice is asking people of conscience to call the Colombian Embassy and to contact their representatives TODAY AND/OR TOMORROW, May 16 and 17, in support of the prisoners’ demands and to demand that La Tramacúa prisoners have immediate access to clean water and food and that the beatings and torture be ended at once.

Phone number for the Colombian Embassy: (202)-387-8338

You can also fax the Embassy at: Fax: (202)-232-8643

SAMPLE SCRIPT FOR THE COLOMBIAN EMBASSY:

I am calling to express my shock and dismay about the treatment of the prisoners at the Maximum Security Penitentiary in Valledupar, commonly known as La Tramacúa. This prison was built with US funding and advice. I therefore demand that prisoners be given access to clean water 24 hours a day and to clean food at meal times, and that beatings and torture be stopped. I further support the demands of striking prisoners that they be transferred from the institution and the La Tramacúa be closed.

For your Representative’s contract info. click here.

SAMPLE SCRIPT FOR EMAIL OR PHONE CALL TO CONGRESS:

I am contacting you because I am shocked and dismayed about the treatment of the prisoners at the Maximum Security Penitentiary in Valledupar, commonly known as La Tramacúa. This prison was built with US funding and advice. It was completed in November, 2000. Yet as a modern prison built with the oversight of USAID and the US Bureau of Prisons, it has become nothing less than a Chamber of Horrors where prisoners are granted access to water an average of only 10 minutes a day, where beatings and torture are common, and where the UN and Colombian government agencies as well as international NGOS have all confirmed the repeated fecal contamination of prison food. I urge you to intervene and contact the appropriate Colombian authorities to demand that prisoners be given access to clean water 24 hours a day and to clean food at meal times, and that beatings and torture be stopped. I further support the demands of prisoners who are currently on strike that they be transferred to another institution and that La Tramacúa be closed.