b) Testimony of Clemente Luis Escobar González, former inmate at the Center The witness was an inmate at the Center and, at the time of his testimony, was in the Emboscada Maximum Security Prison. However, his release was scheduled for February 9, 2004; as of March 30 of that year, the court order had still not been executed.
The witness lived in a “rental” and although he had “never known the love of a mother or father,” his attorney “treat[ed] him like a son.”
The witness was 13 the first time he was placed in the Center, and had committed no crime. The second time an attorney told him that they were going to sentence him to 18 years; another told him three years.
The Center was a disaster. There was a cellar that was used as a “torture chamber.” There, as punishment, they would hang the inmates from an iron bar for one hour, with their hands cuffed. At one point during his stay he broke his knee; it was two months before he was given medical attention. The guards didn’t care about anything; but when human rights observers arrived, they treated the inmates differently. So they took Chief Ortíz hostage. After that, the inmates were afraid that their food would be poisoned. If they made a mistake in computer class, they were punished. The witness no longer wants to think about what went on at the Center. They were hitting him all day, because they claimed that he was a ring leader.
In the first two fires, the inmates burned mattresses to defend themselves from the mistreatment by guards at the Center, who beat them “till they couldn’t beat them more.” The only people who helped them escape from the cellblock were those from cellblock three. He was slightly burned, but went back into the fire to rescue a friend, and was more badly burned. He was five days in the hospital, whereupon he was taken to the Tacumbú Infirmary.
The last fire involved a riot when the guards killed a friend of his for no reason at all. The inmates became furious and started setting fire to everything. The guards threw teargas at them, beat them hard, and began firing on them with machineguns. The inmates had knives and were “about to kill two guards.”
At Emboscada, one of the guards poured “hot stew” on the witness’ neck. He thought about revenge, but opted instead to cut himself at various places on his skin; he thought he could endure anything to secure his release, because he had been in prison for seven months. When they accused him of rape, he asked them to call his attorney; he also wanted his body examined. But the prison guard told him that three or six months of punishment solved any problem there. He cannot sleep and lives in great fear, because there’s a price on his head. Still, he has to grin and bear it because if not, they’ll kill him with one shot and claim he was attempting to escape. Even the “stew” seems to have something in it to make the inmates sleep and sap their strength.
He petitioned the Court for his release, because it is his only hope of staying alive; he has already contemplated suicide. Finally, he wants to get out and never wants to return; he wants a job, a family. He would like to be a lawyer and one day help the other inmates.