Dominican Republic 1971

Torture in la Victoria Prison

Published: July 5, 1971;
Source: Intercontinental Press, Vol. 9, No.26 p.633;
Transcribed: by Amaury Rodriguez, 2016.

Transcriber’s note: This article appeared in Intercontinental Press (IP), a weekly magazine published in New York on behalf on the Fourth International from 1963 to 1986. I thank Pathfinder Press for granting me permission to post this article.

“From about five in the morning until eleven at night, the terrifying screams of those under torture can be heard without letup, echoing in the gloomy passageways along with the loud laughter of the sadists ....

“Eight desperate men have tried to commit suicide.

“Cell No. 11 is called the ‘pavilion of the desperate.’ Those who are to be tortured are brought here. It is a room about eight meters wide and ten meters long, in which 100 prisoners selected for torture are placed. Farther along is cell No. 9, which is called the ‘gas chamber’ or ‘death chamber.’ This is where eight sadists, almost naked, work with electric cables from an inch to an inch and a half thick, clubs, and other objects. They receive the men they are to torture four at a time.”

The summer issue of the USLA Reporter, the bulletin of the United States Committee for Justice to Latin American Political Prisoners, reprinted from the Dominican magazine Renovación – an expose of conditions in La Victoria prison outside Santo Domingo. The passage quoted above is from this report.

Since the government of President Joaquín Balaguer was installed under the watchful eye of American military forces sent in to crush the April 1965 revolution, terror has continued against all opposition political groups.

A large percentage of the approximately 2,000 prisoners in La Victoria are “politicals.”

In an interview in the June 21 issue of the Santo Domingo weekly Ahora!, ex-President Juan Bosch discussed the scope and purpose of the repression that has been going on.

The interviewer, Carlos Maria Gutierrez of Prensa Latina, began by saying: “I have found in the last few days by reading the papers and speaking to some people that there is a situation here that can be called ‘white terror.’ That is, people are being murdered at the indirect instigation f the government and police. What is your view of the situation?”

The moderate former president answered “I do not think the repression has been instigated by the government and the police. I think that it is being carried out by the police, tolerated by the government, and directed by U.S. elements – by the CIA. It is a very severe terror....

“The terror goes on every day. People are arrested, attacked, kept in prison even when the judges order their release, even when they are considered innocent, even when they have served their terms. ...

“The Americans are eliminating, annihilating the revolutionists, because they think that is the way to rule out the possibility of a revolution in the Dominican Republic. As you know, they have put this method into practice in Guatemala and other Latin American countries, apparently with some success.”

A typical recent case of political victimization is the jailing of Domingo Quezada, a thirty-four-year-old member of the Sindicato Artes Graficas [Graphic Arts Union]. Quezada was arrested in late May on the charge of “Communist activity” and sent to La Victoria. He has been held in La Victoria for about a month already, and it is not yet clear whether he will get a trial. Of course, even if a judge orders him released, that is no guarantee the prison officials will let him go, as other cases have demonstrated.

At about the same time Quezada was sent to La Victoria, a committee of political and common-law prisoners in that institution smuggled out an appeal, which was published in the May 30 issue of Renovación Among other things, the appeal said: “It is essential that political, cultural, trade union, student, and professional organizations mobilize in order to halt the terrorism and crimes against the prisoners. We do not know how long we can prevent the kind of situation Colonel Soto Pimentel is waiting for to justify a mass machine-gunning.

“Hundreds of prisoners are jammed into a single cell; from five to six are dragged out each day, asphyxiated. These cells are nothing but hog pens. The prison has been converted into a ghetto for experiments in torture reminiscent of the Nazis... “We appeal in particular to the press and other media to aid us in reaching public opinion.”