The witness was acquainted with the Center because her son, Sergio Daniel Vega Figueredo, was an inmate there. The police took her son away on June 25, 1999. When she went to the police station to look for her son, she was told: “Your son got into trouble for no reason, señora”. The witness was unable to secure his release because she didn’t have money; they were demanding 500,000 guaraní to release her son from the police station. She would have paid the money had she had it, but she didn’t. Because she didn’t have money, her son is dead. On July 2, 1999, her son was transferred to the Center, although he had never made a statement in the presence of a competent authority. Sergio Daniel was at the Center for one year and seven months. “Three days after he went into the ‘Panchito López’ Center, he turned 17.” One year later, a girl made a statement to the effect that because Sergio had not been with them when the incident happened, they pin the blame on him. The witness said that she had eleven children, none of whom had ever been in conflict with the law.
The witness went to visit her son on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. On visits, family members went to the Center and brought those things that they could. She brought her son food, juice, clothing, slippers, and everything he needed. The guards let the inmate out of his cell from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
She made countless efforts to secure her son’s release. In fact, she spoke with an attorney who told her that he would have her son out in three months, “because he’s in trouble for no reason.” Then the case was handed over to another attorney, “a public defender” unable to do anything. Although the public defender worked hard on the witness’ case, she had no success “because the prosecutor [had] closed [her] son’s case.” She struggled to reason with the prosecutor, since one girl had stated that her son had nothing to do with the crime with which he was charged. But the prosecutor told her: “Madam, if you want to know anything else, my door is open; but for now I will not be reading your son’s case file, as his case is closed.” The witness’ son was never convicted.
Sergio Daniel was good, very quiet, and never complained. When he was at the Center, he told her that he was sure he would be released as he had done nothing wrong and had faith in God. He went to school at the Center – to the sixth grade- and took a little course to prepare for confirmation. Before he was sent to the Center, her son did not use drugs; once at the Center, however, he did use drugs. The guards said that the mothers brought their children drugs. The witness was not going to bring “[her] son something son that would poison him.”
The fire was on Friday, February 11, 2000. The Thursday before she had told her son that she would be unable to visit him on Saturday. “But [,,,] on Saturday, [she] buried him.” She learned of the fire from the television, which reported that “the first to die [was] Sergio Vera.” Her last name was Vega. She and her husband hurried to the Center, where they were told that their son was at the Burns Institute. The director of the Center told them that their son had not died, that he was in Areguá and that a taxi would be there shortly to take them there. Her elder son, however, went to the hospital and later called them to break the news that Sergio Daniel had been the first to die. The attending physician wrote on the file “that he died of smoke inhalation.” They then went home to wait for their son’s body. The government never gave them any type of explanation or apology.
She wants to know what happened in the fire, since one boy who did not die told her that they were all asleep and when the fire broke out they begged for help. She doesn’t know whether there were extinguishers to put out the fire. The water tap was outside in the patio, but that night there was no water. The boy told her that the fire had been set “intentionally.” That “is an injustice, [as] we are all human beings.” In Paraguay, prison guards are not trained. For that job, they ought “to be psychologist[s].”
Her family is grief-stricken. What hurts most is that her son was in the Center for misdemeanor battery, and they were unable to secure his release. Sergio Daniel told her he wouldn’t wish prison on his worst enemy.
Her son never told her that they tortured him. However, he told her that at night they took Sergio Daniel to the cellar to torture those who did something wrong; they tied their feet and hung them upside down, and threatened them in that way; they would leave them there like that all night. On the subject of discipline, one guard told her that “if there are 50 inmates in a cell and one does something wrong, I punish all 50.”
She hopes for the justice she was unable to get in her country. Having lost her own son, the witness wants justice for “all the youth who are still alive today.” The children who survived need “someone to listen to them, because many never have visitors; many have no one [who goes] to see them, no one to keep their cases moving. There are mothers who […] abandon their children.” She wants “justice; the law observed.”