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Call for international solidarity as Colombia prisoners’ hunger strike enters 4th week, one dies

July 31, 2013

by the Alliance for Global Justice

On July 25, a prisoner on hunger strike at the Doña Juana Penitentiary in Colombia died after having been refused medical treatment by his guards. He had been experiencing chest pains and asking to see a doctor, but his request was ignored. Soon the prisoner was dead from a heart attack.

Cárceles+Prison,+Colombia
Conditions in Colombia’s prisons are extreme. A year ago, 11,000 Colombian prisoners in 22 prisons participated in a hunger strike.
The next morning, 18 of the hunger strikers sewed their mouths shut in protest, and the hunger strike has risen to 176 participants. Over 1,300 inmates began a hunger strike and acts of nonviolent resistance on July 8.

The prisoners are entering the fourth week of a hunger strike to demand better conditions. Located in La Dorada, Caldas, the prison is one of the new jails built with U.S. funding and advice as part the “New Penitentiary Culture.” Typical of such prisons are overcrowding, lack of medical treatment, a concentration of political prisoners, and beatings and forms of torture by prison guards.

The U.S. government is exporting the “New Penitentiary Culture” around the world, not only to Colombia, where it was pioneered, but to Mexico, Honduras, Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere. It is no coincidence that prisoners at Doña Juana and prisoners in the California prison system began hunger strikes on the same day. Strikes are or have been also underway in Guantanamo and Afghanistan. From California to Colombia, all are protesting U.S. “prison imperialism” that jails the population at high rates and uses inhumane practices such as solitary confinement, torture and denial of services to dehumanize the incarcerated.

It is no coincidence that prisoners at Doña Juana and prisoners in the California prison system began hunger strikes on the same day.

Since it began with 1,300 prisoners on July 8, the hunger strike has been maintained by 53 prisoners, who have begun experiencing rapidly deteriorating health. Jail officials are not monitoring their conditions nor providing any form of health services. The Alliance for Global Justice was contacted by our Colombian partners, Lazos de Dignidad, saying the situation had become urgent and that international solidarity is desperately needed in support of the prisoners’ demands, which are that:

  1. medical care and attention be made available to all inmates, with a healthcare professional on site at all times;
  2. sanitary facilities be made available, after more than six months of not functioning;
  3. measures be taken to end overcrowding;
  4. degrading treatment of visitors be stopped;
  5. beatings and the use of torture and collective punishment be ended.

Background and context

In August 2012, prisoners at Doña Juana began a previous period of nonviolent resistance and hunger strikes which were ended when the government agreed to negotiations with the prisoners. These negotiations took place in April 2013, yet none of the accords are being honored. Of special concern is the lack of medical attention and clean, functioning sanitary facilities. The current protests are to demand fulfillment of these accords.

There is a wave of prisoner resistance in the U.S. and U.S. funded and advised prisons around the world right now. Similar actions are occurring or have recently occurred in prisons in California, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and elsewhere. In California, over 30,000 prisoners also began a hunger strike on July 8, and today there are still nearly 600 refusing to eat in protest of the inhumane practice of solitary confinement. More than 80,000 U.S. inmates are being held in solitary confinement, including Colombian prisoner of war Ricardo Palmera.

From California to Colombia, all are protesting U.S. “prison imperialism” that jails the population at high rates and uses inhumane practices such as solitary confinement, torture and denial of services to dehumanize the incarcerated.

We at the Alliance of Global Justice have been writing about the issue of “prison imperialism.” This refers to a style of incarceration being exported around the world. Along with border militarization and increased law enforcement, these measures serve as tools to control and manage the disruption and dissent that neoliberal capitalism breeds.

Learn more and get involved

For a powerful description of a visit by AfGJ to La Tramacúa prison, the first U.S.-funded prison built in Colombia, click HERE.

To sign a petition in Spanish in support of the Doña Juana hunger strikers, click HERE.

To send an email to Colombian authorities in support of the prisoners’ demands, click HERE.

Further reading

USA’s Prison Industrial Complex Moves South of the Border

A Visit Inside Colombia’s Most Notorious Prison, La Tramacúa

The “New Penitentiary Culture”: US Designs for Colombian Jails (How the USAID, Federal Bureau of Prisons and the School of the Americas Have Impacted Colombia’s Prison System)

The Alliance for Global Justice can be reached at james@afgj.org and afgj.org, where this story first appeared.

 

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