Colombian Prison Strikes Continue

Colombian Prison Strikes Continue - Inhumane Conditions ‚ÄúMade in the USA‚ÄĚ

(Important Action Component at the Bottom of this post!)

by James Jordan

Strikes involving thousands of prisoners at 21 institutions continue in Colombia against the humanitarian crisis in the jails. Overcrowding is rampant and in many prisons the availability of potable water and clean, unspoiled food is severely restricted. There is little adequate health care, especially for the seriously ill. For instance, José Lamprea is a prisoner whose four year sentence is in danger of turning into a death penalty. Confined to a wheel chair by what may be bone cancer, he has still not received medical treatment that was court ordered in November, 2011.

Torture is so commonplace in the jails that a 2008 study by Colombia's Committee in Solidarity with the Political Prisoners showed that when asked if the inmates had been tortured at least once during their jail time, 54% answered they had and 46% did not answer the question at all. Eighty-six percent said that they had experienced psychological torture, including threats to relatives and simulated executions.

Conditions in Colombian prisons should be of special concern for residents and citizens of the United States. In 2000, the US Ambassador signed an agreement with the Colombian Minister of the Interior named the Program for the Improvement of the Colombian Prison System (PICPS). Under the PICPS, the US would help build a series of new prisons to create a ‚ÄúNew Penitentiary Culture‚ÄĚ. This effort has been funded and advised via USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and the US Bureau of Prisons.

One reason given for this program was to alleviate overcrowding. However, rates of arrests went up far more quickly than new jails and the number of political arrests that were later thrown out of court for lack of evidence rose by 300% (with most of the accused spending two to three years in jail before release). This does not include political prisoners who have been convicted for their activities. The estimated number of political prisoners has grown from 7,200 to over 10,000 since 2008.

New jail construction has been less about relieving overcrowding than preparing for a much larger prison population as a result of social and economic disruption and punishing political dissent. With passage of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement many observers fear that poverty rates will worsen and crimes of desperation and prison populations will increase. Unfortunately, US and Colombian authorities see the "New Penitentiary Culture" as a model and are seeking to replicate it in Central America (where in Honduras the US has announced a new ‚ÄúModel Penitentiary‚ÄĚ program) and Mexico (where the US is funding construction of 16 new federal prisons).

According to Tulio Murillo Avila, who is a national spokesperson for the Movimiento Nacional Carcelario (National Movement in the Jails), jail not a new thing, being found today at a national level of 47%, due to the policies of the new centers of incarcerations constructed under the influence of the US Bureau of Prisons. In some jails the overcrowding has reached 400%.

Bellavista Jail in Medellín

In a video-recorded interview with the Colombian media outlet RPASUR (Western Colombia Alternative Press Network- ), one prisoner representative reported that, ‚ÄúThe gravest are the problems with hygiene in the jails and overcrowding. Colombia has a capacity for 78,000 prisoners. We find in Colombia more than 130,000 prisoners.‚ÄĚ Almost one-third of the incarcerated are unconvicted persons awaiting trial who are mixed in with the general population and are often subjected to processes that take years before a verdict is rendered.

The first prison constructed with US funding and advice was La Tramac√ļa, located in the city of Valledupar. Although a ‚Äúmodern‚ÄĚ facility built on the basis of US designs, it has become infamous for its terrible conditions. La Tramac√ļa has been found on at least three occasions (by agencies from the United Nations and the Department of C√©sar, as well as by an international NGO) to be serving food tainted with faecal matter. Sanitary facilities are rarely working and inmates are forced to relieve themselves in buckets and plastic bags which are ‚Äúdisposed of‚ÄĚ by being thrown over prison walls.

In 2010, Raquel Mogoll√≥n, a member of the Alliance for Global Justice ‚ÄúColombia Watch‚ÄĚ working group, had the chance to visit La Tramac√ļa with a delegation of Colombian legislators and international human rights defenders. According to Mogoll√≥n, ...Inmates say they‚Äôre getting access to water about ten minutes a day. However, in the cells there is water‚Ķdisgusting, dirty water on the floors. [Editor's Note: Past visitors at La Tramac√ļa have reported that sewage lines often overflow and open sewage runs by kitchen facilities.]

The prison was absolutely, suffocatingly hot with just a few water pipes. What was really bad‚ÄďI got a look at the water bottles. They were all full of mold. They aren‚Äôt able to clean their water jugs. There‚Äôs just not enough water available. At one point, you could hear the water coming through the pipes. All the men started running‚Ķ.

The whole place smelled. They said it was cleaned up for us. Mostly, it smelled like urine. They said the bags of feces had been gotten rid of....

The kitchen area was totally dark. They said they’d cleaned that up, too, but it wasn’t that clean. There were three fans and ten giant cauldrons where they were cooking some soup or stew. In the other room where they prepared the food, it was full of flies. There was grease all over the floor. It didn’t smell very good. I saw vegetables and fruit that were spoiled in the preparation area, with flies all around them.

Prisoner collecting daily water at La Tramac√ļa

Since the beginning of the PICPS, there has been a series of prisoner strikes against such conditions. More often than not they have been violently repressed. Beginning on August 2, 2012, nonviolent resistance began that has included as many as 11,000 prisoners in 21 institutions and is still continuing. Prisoners have used a number of different tactics including hunger strikes, the refusal to participate in prison counts or work programs or to wear prison uniforms, and self-suspension from prison balconies and railings in make-shift hammocks and harnesses. The number one demand of the prisoners is that the Colombian government establish a National Board of Consultation that includes prisoner spokespersons in order to resolve the crisis in the jails.

The prisoners have formulated an additional five basic demands:

  • Declare a Social and Humanitarian Emergency in Colombian jails;
  • Regionalize prisoners in institutions near their families;
  • Reduce all sentences by 20% and increase the use of alternative sentences such as home detention;
  • Resolve problems of health, sanitation and overcrowding;
  • End the extradition of prisoners to foreign countries (which is interfering with Colombia's internal peace process and in ongoing investigations of links between paramilitary death squads and Colombian politicians).

The response of the Colombian Bureau of Prisons (INPEC) has so far been yet more repression and neglect. On August 10th, according to the legal collective and political prisoner solidarity organization Lazos de Dignidad (Links of Dignity), which, along with Traspasa los Muros (Beyond the Walls), which they co-founded, has been one of the primary outside organizations supporting the strikers, ...prisoners of the La Modelo jail in Arauca informed us that, in the morning hours, INPEC guards physically attacked four prisoners in Patio reprisal for their participation in the National Days of Protest.....The attacked prisoners were placed in solitary confinement instead of being...attended by medical personnel....

The 12th of August of 2012, in the afternoon hours, spokespersons for the 34 hunger strikers at the Penitentiary Complex of Picale√Īa (Ibagu√©, Tolima), informed us that the state of the strikers has deteriorated, [and they are] suffering severe dizziness, nausea, stomach sickness, cramps, fainting and decreased mobility, without INPEC offering adequate medical attention....

Of particular concern at La Picale√Īa has been the condition of prisoner spokesperson Alba Libia Esquivel whose health has been especially affected. Esquivel has been on a hunger strike since August 8th.

Lazos also reported that on August 23, the afternoon hours, the Immediate Reaction Group (GRI) of INPEC entered the High Security Penitentiary in Combita, Boyac√°, in a violent manner, proceding to launch tear gas and to beat the strikers, leaving various wounds....Those wounded have been taken in stretchers from their units, their whereabouts unknown.‚ÄĚ

On August 27, according to a report from Lazos, the jail of Valledupar, ‚ÄúLa Tramac√ļa‚ÄĚ...inmates of Tower Four climbed the structure as a form of protest of the present crisis in the jails. In the morning hours...Sgt. Lucio entered with a group of guards launching tear gas and repressing the protest and attacking the inmates with clubs. The prisoner Wilson Jim√©nez Mora, who was found suspended from the structure, was thrown from the third floor resulting in a fractured leg.

Isolation from families is the single most oft-cited prisoner complaint. Most prisoners come from impoverished backgrounds and families cannot afford trips to visit faraway prisons. Also, given Colombia's difficult terrain, and the lack of infrastructure development, a trip of 200 miles can routinely take 12-15 hours in the mountainous regions.

Mogoll√≥n tells of a particularly poignant encounter she had while visiting inside La Tramac√ļa:

The worst thing, the worst kind of torture, wasn‚Äôt any kind of violence or anything like that. It seems little, but so many people came up to me and told me about not being able to see their families, being completely shut off. When we walked between the Towers, the prisoners were all bunched up around the gates. People would be calling to me, ‚ÄėDoctora! Doctora! Madre! Madre!‚Äô They would want me to write their names down.

One man said, ‚ÄėI‚Äôve been here eight years! I can‚Äôt see my daughter!‚Äô

Another said, ‚ÄėI‚Äôve been here twelve years and I haven‚Äôt seen my mother the whole time!‚Äô

It was one plea after another like that, people who hadn‚Äôt seen their families for years. When I asked why, one man responded, ‚ÄėWe‚Äôre poor. Our families can‚Äôt afford to make the long trips. And when we think of them coming in here, how it smells like feces, it‚Äôs so humiliating, so disgusting. It is so hard to think of them seeing us like this.

Mogollón again talked about the pleas she would hear as she walked through the institution’s halls.

We would have to walk through these passageways that crisscrossed among the different units. All the prisoners would be crammed up at the gates and windows, calling to me, ‚ÄúDoctora! Doctora!‚Äô or ‚ÄėMadre! Madre!‚Äô. I would put my hand up just to acknowledge them. They would give me papers with their names on them. One inmate called to me, ‚ÄėPlease, please, Madre! I‚Äôve been here six years and I have two hernias. I can‚Äôt get treatment, I can‚Äôt get medicine!‚Äô

Another told me, ‚ÄėLook, you‚Äôve got to listen! There is no re-socialization here! There‚Äôs no such thing!‚Äô

Finally, at one point I stopped in one of the passageways and spoke back to them. I said, ‚ÄėLook, I wish I could help each one of you, but I can‚Äôt! I can‚Äôt because this place is modeled on a US system. This model is based on punishment and the people who designed this system don‚Äôt care about re-socialization. They don‚Äôt care what happens to you! All I can do is to go back and do what I can to change this whole system and draw attention to what you are suffering.

All of a sudden, they started clapping, yelling, ‚ÄėGo on!‚Äô and ‚ÄėYou speak the truth!‚Äô

And that is what we must do here in the US: we must go and speak the truth about this situation our government has helped create. We must intervene on behalf of Colombia's prisoners‚ÄĒnot only the more than 10,000 political prisoners, but on behalf of all those whose lives have been broken by the US/Corporate Empire and the neoliberal economic and political system it tries to impose throughout the world.

Take Action! Here are some things that you can do:

Cut and paste the follwing sample in Spanish or write your own message and email it to the following Colombian, United Nations and US State Department Officials, and to AfGJ, at:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


Todo el mundo esta observando lo que pasa en los penitenciarios en Colombia. Sabemos del hacinamiento; que las cárceles no están proviendo a sus internos las necesidades básicas como comida y agua limpia y servicio desalud; que violencia en contra de las presas y los presos es epidémico; que los servicios de resocialización son limitados y en vez se favorecen las políticas de castigo y negligencia. Yo apoyo a los y las huelgistas de las cárceles colombianas que exigen condiciones mejores y especialmente apoyo la declaración de Estado de Emergencia Carcelaria y el establecimiento de una Mesa Nacional de Concertación que incluye portavoces para las presas y los presos con la meta de resolver esta situación.


The whole world is watching what is taking place in Colombian prisons. We know that Colombian prisons are overcrowded; that many prisons are not providing their inmates with basic necessities such as clean food and water and basic health care; that violence against prisoners is epidemic; that rehabilitation services are severely limited in favor of policies of punishment and neglect. I support Colombia's striking prisoners in demanding better conditions and, especially, the declaration of a State of Emergency in the Colombian penal system and the establishment of a National Board of Consultation, including spokespersons for the prisoners, to remedy this situation.

Call or fax the Colombian Embassy in Washington, DC, using the above sample or your own words. They can be reached at 202-387-8388 or you can send them a fax at 202-232-8643.

There's a very good chance that your Representative and Senators in the US Congress do not even know about the US-sponsored PICPS and the ‚ÄúNew Penitentiary Culture‚ÄĚ. We encourage you to set up a visit with your elected representatives to educate them about this issue and to demand that they use their influence to call on the Colombian government to take immediate action to improve conditions in the prisons and to call for a Congressional investigation of the PICPS and the conditions it has lead to in prisons such as La Tramac√ļa. We must also ask them to intervene to stop this model from being further imported into Central America and Mexico. If you would be willing to organize such a visit, please send an email to to receive background material for your visit.

WATCH "BEYOND THE WALLS"!--A play based on the testimonies and writings of the Political Prisoners of Buen Pastor Womens Prison in Bogot√°. This is a condensed version, 23 minutes long. The entire play takes about an hour and is available for presentations by community groups. If interested, send an email to .

Like the work AFGJ is doing? Please support us today ‚Äď

Watch a condensed version of "BEYOND THE WALLS", a play based on the testimonies and writings of the Political Prisoners of Buen Pastor Womens Penitentiary in Bogot√°, Colombia. If you are interested in presenting the play, contact


La Brigada Jur√≠dica, se permite informar a la opini√≥n publica nacional e internacional de DDHH, que el d√≠a de hoy mi√©rcoles 29 de agosto de 2012, realizo una visita humanitaria al vocero nacional TULIO MURILLO AVILA, del Movimiento Nacional Carcelario- MNC-; la cual se desarrollo en el complejo carcelario y penitenciario de Picale√Īa, en la ciudad de Ibagu√©- Tolima.

En primer lugar nos manifestó un saludo para toda la población reclusa, que de una manera valiente sigue desarrollando la Jornada Nacional de Protesta pacifica carcelaria, en buena parte de los establecimiento carcelarios y penitenciarios del País.

En segundo t√©rmino solicita a las autoridades del INPEC, estudiar la posibilidad de su traslado a la Penitenciaria central de Colombia, La Picota, ubicada en la ciudad de Bogot√°, a fin poder llevar a cabo la instalaci√≥n de una Mesa Nacional de Concertaci√≥n, que le de cumplimiento a las diversas iniciativas que salieron del pasado debate de Control Pol√≠tico realizado en La C√°mara de Representantes del Congreso de la Rep√ļblica, los cuales se sintetizan en:

1. Declarar la Emergencia Social y Humanitaria en las C√°rceles de Colombia
2. Regionalizaci√≥n de los prisioneros ‚Äď Acercamiento familiar.
3. Rebaja del 20% de la pena, otorgamiento de subrogados penales y  beneficios administrativos.
4.  Solución a los problemas de salud, salubridad y hacinamiento.
5.  No a la extradición.

En tercer punto se hace un Urgente llamado a las autoridades de control, en especial al Ministerio Publico, para que investiguen las graves violaciones a los DDHH de las personas privadas de la libertad, que se viene presentado como represalia por parte de la Guardia del INPEC, en la mayoría de las cárceles contra los lideres y miembros de los comités de DDHH. Pues al parecer manifestó el vocero nacional se viene preparando una arremetida del CRI, CORES, (comandos de reacción inmediata) con la ayuda del ESMAD, en todas las cárceles del país:

En cuarto punto hacen un llamado a la se√Īora Ministra de Justicia y del Derecho Dra. RUTH ESTELLA CORREA, para que les facilite el documento sobre Pol√≠tica Criminal, con el fin de poder participar en el debate y aportes al mismo , desde una perspectiva de la criminolog√≠a critica que examine el origen de la criminalidad, control social, identificar y analizar al margen de las definiciones legales las conductas socialmente da√Īinas o negativas y que analice los procesos de criminalizaci√≥n y los comportamientos socialmente da√Īinos a trav√©s de elaboraci√≥n e implementaci√≥n de una pol√≠tica criminal alternativa al sistema penal.

Agosto 29 de 2012.


La campa√Īa por la libertad de lxs prisionerxs pol√≠ticxs TRASPASA LOS MUROS comunica a la opini√≥n publica en General, que el d√≠a de hoy 27 de agosto de 2012, internos de diversas c√°rceles del pa√≠s (Combita, Jamund√≠, Arauca, Quibd√≥, ERON-Picota, Barne, C√ļcuta, Dorada, Gir√≥n, Picale√Īa y el L√≠bano) iniciaron una huelga de hambre por 48 horas en repudio a la pol√≠tica nacional carcelaria y a favor de la Mesa de Concertaci√≥n Nacional con participaci√≥n activa de la poblaci√≥n reclusa.

Igualmente informamos que en la c√°rcel de Valledupar ‚ÄúLA TRAMACUA‚ÄĚ, el d√≠a de ayer internos de la torre 4 se subieron a la estructura como forma de protestar por la actual crisis carcelaria. En horas de la ma√Īana del d√≠a de hoy 27 de agosto de 2012, el sargento Lucio ingreso con un grupo de guardias lanzando gases lacrim√≥genos y reprimiendo la protesta y agrediendo con garrote a los internos. El interno Wilson Jim√©nez Mora, quien se encontraba colgado de la estructura, fue lanzado desde el tercer piso tras lo cual resulto con una pierna fracturada.

Denunciamos y responsabilizamos al INPEC por los atropellos impartidos en los √ļltimos d√≠as en diferentes c√°rceles del pa√≠s, quienes con violencia y sevicia han reprimido la protesta pacifica que adelantan los internos en diversas c√°rceles.

Igualmente apoyamos la justa lucha que vienen desarrollando los internos a lo largo del territorio nacional y nos solidarizamos de forma activa con las reivindicaciones del Movimiento Nacional Carcelario. Igualmente apoyamos el pliego de peticiones elaborado por los internos y la exigencia de la conformación de la Mesa Nacional de Concertación.


Organizaciones sociales , populares, medios de comunicación, etc.

Los internos recluidos en la penitenciaria de Combita Boyac√°, junto a los reclusos de las c√°rceles y penitenciarias del Barne, Gir√≥n-Santander, C√ļcuta, Arauca, Valledupar, Jamund√≠, Quibd√≥-choco, ERON Picota patio 14, Dorada y otras penitenciarias a nivel nacional, desde las 06 horas 00 del 27 de agosto de 2012, nos declaramos en huelga de hambre por 48 horas continuas, reforzando las tres semanas de desobediencia y protesta para la cual nos vemos forzados de atentar con nuestra salud e integridad, ya que el gobierno ha hecho caso omiso a nuestros justos reclamos.

Por lo tanto exigimos:

1-Que se decrete la emergencia social en las cárceles y penitenciarias del país.

2-Creacion de una comisión de internos a nivel nacional.

3- Una comisi√≥n de alto nivel inter institucional del gobierno para que en una mesa de concertaci√≥n entren a solucionar los puntos que nos ata√Īen como poblaci√≥n reclusa.

Los cuales son:

A) Derecho a la salud

B) Rebaja de penas para los reclusos de hasta un 20%.

C) Traslado de los internos a sus lugares de origen, sea por acercamiento familiar o procesal.

D) Alternatividad penal para los pa√≠ses denominados tercermundistas. Que las condenas no sobrepasen los 25 a√Īos, entre ellos Colombia.

E) Reforma a la ley 65 o su derogación con la participación de la población reclusa.

F) Eliminación del pago de las multas.

G) No a la extradición.

Esta poblaci√≥n vulnerable hace un llamado a todos los sectores sociales, populares, acad√©micos, estudiantiles, la iglesia, ONG¬īS y dem√°s, para que sean nuestra voz de solidaridad en nuestra justa lucha.


La Lucha social no es un delito, es un paso hacia la Libertad...



La Lucha social no es un delito, es un paso hacia la Libertad...




En el marco del D√≠a Internacional del Detenido Desaparecido, la Asociaci√≥n de Padres y Familiares de las V√≠ctimas de Sucumb√≠os se suma a este esfuerzo de lucha junto con varias organizaciones para realizar la jornada: ‚ÄúPOR EL DERECHO A PROTESTAR‚ÄĚ

Todos nosotros unidos en nuestras demandas, en nuestras exigencias de justicia, buscamos ser una sola voz, un solo esfuerzo, un solo frente. Por ello, la protestaCADA UNO POR LA JUSTCIA del mes de Septiembre se realizará el JUEVES 30 DE AGOSTO A LAS 11 AM frente a la Embajada de Colombia, para partir en movilización hacia la PGR y de ahí a la Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores.

Este 1¬į de septiembre se cumplen cuatro a√Īos y medio de la masacre de Sucumb√≠os, del asesinato de nuestros hijos, se cumplen cuatro a√Īos de la campa√Īa CADA UNO POR LA JUSTICIA que de manera ininterrumpida hemos realizado desde 2008 frente a la sede diplom√°tica de Colombia en M√©xico. La mejor manera de reivindicar esta lucha, es uni√©ndonos con otras luchas, por ello, nos vemos este 30 DE AGOSTO A LAS 11 AM.


Lunes 27 de agosto
Foro: La criminalización y el derecho a la protesta social.
Lugar: Auditorio Ché Guevara, Facultad de Filosofía en Ciudad Universitaria, UNAM.
Hora. 17:00 hrs.
Gilberto López y Rivas, Tribunal Permanente de los Pueblos
José Reveles, periodista
Ra√ļl √Ālvarez Gar√≠n, Comit√© 68
Modera: Comité Cerezo México

Martes 28 de agosto
Mitin en apoyo al derecho a la justicia.
Lugar: Juzgado Penal N√ļm. 33 Del D.F. con sede en el Reclusorio Preventivo Sur
Hora: 10:00 hrs.

Miércoles 29 de agosto
En el marco del 11 aniversario del Comité Cerezo México.
Presentación del Informe de violaciones a los derechos humanos en México 2011.
Lugar: Centro Universitario Cultural. Odontología 35, Copilco Universidad, Coyoacán, D. F
Hora: 16:00 hrs.

Programación especial de Radio Estudiantil Libertaria
Lugar: Explanada de la ENTS. CU-UNAM
Hora: 10:00 hrs.

Jueves 30 de agosto
Marcha por el D√≠a internacional de las v√≠ctimas de desaparici√≥n forzada y en el marco de los 4 a√Īos de la campa√Īa CADA UNO POR LA JUSTICIA por las v√≠ctimas de Sucumb√≠os.
Lugar: Embajada de Colombia-PGR-Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores
Hora: 11:00 hrs.

Proyección del documental: De luto visten los héroes, acerca de la masacre de Sucumbíos
Lugar: Explanada de la Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, Ciudad Universitaria-UNAM
Hora: 18:00 horas

Viernes 31 de agosto
Presentación del libro: Sucumbíos historia de una infamia
Lugar: Explanada de la Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, Ciudad Universitaria-UNAM
Hora: 13:00 horas


Comit√© 68, Comit√© de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos ‚ÄúHasta Encontrarlos‚ÄĚ, Asociaci√≥n de Padres y Familiares de las V√≠ctimas de Sucumb√≠os Ecuador, Comit√© Cerezo M√©xico, Brigada Estudiantil Multidisciplinaria, Frente Nacional de Lucha por el Socialismo (FNLS), Frente de Lucha Estudiantil Julio Antonio Mella (FLE-JAM), Federaci√≥n de Estudiantes Campesinos Socialistas de M√©xico (FECSM), Organizaci√≥n Campesina de la Sierra del Sur


En un refugio guardado en su corazón
Llevan la bandera de Bolívar.
Su rostro la transmite en la sonrisa
Que dejaron en las im√°genes del recuerdo.
Hoy desde lo alto suenan las campanas
Ustedes las tocan para mostrarnos el camino.
Juan, Verónica, Soren, Fernando desde lo alto nos miran
Y nos recuerdan que para ser grandes
Hay que saber so√Īar.


(Si no deseas recibir más información, envianos un correo pidiendo se elimine tu dirección de la base de datos, gracias)


W: E: / /

"No aceptes lo habitual como cosa natural.
Porque en tiempos de desorden,
de confusión organizada,
de humanidad deshumanizada,
nada debe parecer natural.
Nada debe parecer imposible de cambiar."
Bertolt Brecht