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Issue #1501      18 May 2011

General strike in Colombia’s La Tramacúa prison

The Alliance for Global Justice in the US has received alarming news from their Colombian partners, Traspasa los Muros, about torture, deprivation of water, filthy conditions and other abuses in the La Tramacúa prison. They are particularly worried about the life and well-being of Hernan Rodriguez Díaz who has been the victim of torture and beatings since he began a hunger strike on May 2.

Since April 29, the following events have occurred:

Between April 29 and May 2, the water supply at La Tramacúa was turned off, even though the temperatures were reaching 95 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. This left inmates rationing water already collected for drinking and unable to bathe or clean dishes and clothing. Inmates were forced to use plastic bags for the elimination of bodily waste, with urine and fecial matter festering in inoperative toilets.

On May 2, political prisoner Hernan Rodriguez Díaz began a hunger strike demanding better conditions plus medical attention for himself and a transfer to Bogotá, where his family lives. He also was demanding an end to restrictions on communication preventing him from sending or receiving letters or phone calls even from his wife and five children.

Díaz had become sick due to the poor quality of food at La Tramacúa, which has been repeatedly found to contain fecial matter. This has been corroborated by the United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights in Colombia, the Office of the Secretary of Health for the Department of César, Colombia, as well as national and international NGOs.

Inmates have also complained of being served rotten food and food contaminated with maggots. A central demand for the hunger strike is access to clean food and water.

On May 3, Rodriguez Díaz was taken by prison guards to an isolated patio where he was forced to stay outside in the sun from 8am to 6pm, causing severe dehydration. On May 6, La Tramacúa prisoners made a special appeal to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon and Minister of the Interior and of Justice Germán Vargas Lleras calling on them to intervene to stop the torture and the restrictions on the water supply.

On May 7, Rodriguez Díaz was put into isolation and beaten by prison guards trying to pressure him to end his hunger strike. On May 9, 300 prisoners inside La Tramacúa began a strike, refusing to participate in prisoner counts, to wear uniforms or to cooperate with prison authorities in any way. They are striking in support of Rodriguez Díaz’ demands and are again calling for adequate access to water.

They specifically complained of the practice of collective punishment by turning water off for days at a time or restricting access to water for five minutes every 48 hours, during which time inmates are expected to collect water in plastic jugs for the next two days’ use. Even under best conditions, access to water is available for around ten minutes per day per inmate.

Also on May 9, Lazos de Dignidad (who provide legal services for political prisoners) received reports that Rodriguez Díaz was in grave physical condition, fainting frequently and unable to stand on his own.

On May 10, prison guards attacked striking prisoners in Tower Four, beating them and firing tear gas indiscriminately into the pavilion, leaving five prisoners wounded. Prison guards attacked Osman Polo Carrillo in Tower Five, beating him and firing tear gas canisters into his cell.

On May 10, 60 prisoners from Tower Five denounced the terrible sanitary conditions and the widespread infirmities resulting from these conditions, including diarrhoea, vomiting, bloody stools, skin rashes and constant coughs.

La Tramacúa was built in 2000 with funding from USAID and oversight from the US Bureau of Prisons. It was supposed to be a model of a “New Penitentiary Culture”, but the name La Tramacúa has become synonymous with the harshest and most inhumane conditions in any Colombian prison.  

PLEASE TAKE ACTION – What you can do:

Please send an email to the United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights in Colombia, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the International Red Cross.

Send to:

Please also send a bcc copy to

Next article – Those Libyan “Freedom Fighters”

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