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The Testamony of a Tortured Victim

February 15, 2009

This is a real testamony of a tortured victim. We are reminded at the time of the up and coming elections in El Salvador that this may happen to other innocent victims. The purpose of sharing this story is to tell the free, peace keeping countries of the world that political crimes, disappearances, assassinations, unjustified incarcerations are not a thing of the past. This characterized El Salvador in the 1980’s and still to this day.

It was March 1980 something. It was election day and my friend Susan and I had gone out to take some pictures to make a documentary on the election events in El Salvador. I was an art student at the National University of El Salvador, so naturally, I carried my sketch book with me every where I went.

As we were walking by the University we were stopped by a group of soldiers who asked us where we were going and what were we doing. We said we were just taking pictures.

The solder in charge said, “Pictures of what?” We said just pictures of the election activities. We want to make a documentary on how elections work in El Salvador. He said, “Are you sure? I said, “Yeah “. He said, “What do you have in your bag?” I said, “My sketch book”. He took the bag and dropped it and started going through my book page by page. I don’t remember what I had in the book but as he was looking through the pages, he not only changed the tone of his voice but as he looked at one of the pictures he said, ”What the fuck is this”? I said, “It’s my sketch book”. “No, no, no, what the fuck is this drawing”? I looked at the picture and I peed my emotions. The drawing was of a blind folded man on a chair with hands tied behind his back and a sign on top of head. If Nicaragua triumphed so will El Salvador. I felt the chill from my head to my toes. I knew I was in trouble. The guy got upset and angry and took our cameras and said “You are a fucking communist”. I said no, I am a student of the arts. He said, “Where have you seen this drawing before”? Nowhere, I heard about it from others and he opened our cameras and took out the film and destroyed them. This was the beginning of my ordeal. The soldier called someone and in less than a minute there were about 300 soldiers around us including a big black man holding a big stick. A mini van with tinted glass showed up and he said “Get in, keep your heads down; keep you’re your heads down”. So they put us in a van and took us to a military base. At that place they put me in a prison cell where the soldiers were playing prisoners but they were undercover soldiers. I didn’t say or give any information and they were asking my why I was there. After about two hours someone came and said get out. They put us back in the van with our heads down and they took us to another military base. As we arrived, because I was with Susan a Canadian woman they politely said to us they had to put blindfolds on us for safety reasons. We drove down to a basement which was a very filthy, bloody, smelly place and that is where the language changed. I couldn’t see there because of the blind folds. Susan was taken to another room. The soldier told me to take off my clothes and to put this on. It was a pair of shorts and smelly t-shirt. I was facing the wall still blind folded when they took my shoes and socks off. This guy walked me to through a hall to a very tiny room that had a toilet. The room was only about a meter wide by a meter and a half in depth. This guy pushed me against the wall and amongst other obscenities said if you fall asleep I‘ll kick you, you cannot sit down, you are here for good, then he slammed the door, and locked it!
My arms were hand cuffed in the front. I remained standing there. I was nervous. At that point I heard many voices including Susan’s as she was being interrogated peacefully. She was offered a blanket and a mattress to sleep on. From what I gathered she was across from my prison cell. They were asking her why she had joined this communist man who was part of a big plot to destroy El Salvador. Meantime I heard the scream of a man who said my ear, my ear has been cut off. I heard the crying for help from other prisoners close by and who were also being tortured. The door slammed again, a man came in and changed my hand cuffs to the back and he said as he put a gun to my head “You guys are good in the mountains, what do you have to say for yourself. Maybe I should just kill you right here and now”. As he cocked the gun three times pointing it to my head, he walked me to another room and sat me on a chair.


Another person came in and said “Daniel, I am a lawyer. I am here to help you but you have to co-operate. I will be back. I want you to stay here and do not move”. There was a silence and I could feel the presence of people. I could hear about seven soldiers breathing. It was very quiet in that room and then one of them jumped on me and beat me up, punching and kicking me then I was thrown to the ground almost losing consciousness.

I didn’t count the days, but I can surely say there were probably 5 to 10 minutes breaks between the beatings and the long interrogations. There was excruciating pain from the handcuffs around my swollen wrists, and my lips were dried and bleeding. I realized that there was a toilet in the cell so I managed to drink a little from it, not much because there was very little water in it. I asked one of the guards if I could have some water, he took me back to the torture chamber and after another beating he offered me water in a cup. I started to drink it but I realized that there was something like a diluted pill in it, so I stopped, but the guy said: “you wanted water, now you drink it @#$%” so I did. Then I felt dizzy, and my head felt like it was about to explode. I was there for a little over a week, with no food, no water, no sleeping, no sitting and I thought I was going to die. One day they told me they had arrested my wife and two daughters and they were prepared to kill them if I didn’t cooperate with them, meaning accepting all the accusations. That for me was quite challenging. Another day they took me to another place where I kept standing, then a very tall officer came and told me that he had in his hands some pictures showing me attacking military bases, and setting buses on fire at a street demonstration. For some reason my fear was gone, I didn’t have much left anyways, so I responded that if he had evidence of that, it was his responsibility to take me to court and press charges. “Your duty, sir, ends right there, and it is up to the judge to decide your fate”. No military likes to be challenged by a civilian, much less they would never admit when they are doing something wrong, so he grabbed me by my hair, lifted me up and crashed me against the floor as he said, “in here you are just a piece of shit”, then he proceeded to push me very hard into my cell. I couldn’t stop myself, I was very weak, as I hit my head against the brick wall and lost consciousness.

I don’t know what happened after that, all I remember is that when I woke up, I was sitting in front of somebody who said nothing for about half an hour. He just moved papers around, as he watched my reaction to it. He then broke the silence and told me to sign somewhere on a sheet of paper because I was being released. I was still blindfolded but I took my chances. I signed them and then he read what I had just signed. I had just admitted all the charges you can imagine, including the use of heavy weapons. Then he said, “you are going to court”. I thought he was kidding, but they in fact took me to court. It was then I could see my surroundings for the first time after seven or eight days of torture. At first it was a horrible shock, because I couldn’t see anything. I thought I had lost my vision, then slowly my vision was blurry then finally I could see the secretary of the court who told me not to worry and to tell her about what happened to me while in captivity She assured me that the ordeal was over, that I was not the first, nor would I be the last prisoner at that place and that they knew what took place in that basement. I not only spoke, I also showed her my bruises, as the man who brought me there watched from a distance. There was no evidence on the charges, so I was released two or three days later from a minimum security prison.

A year later I was arrested again. There was nothing different to tell you about the second time. It was the same procedure, the same basement. I recognized the voices of those torturing me. The International Red Cross came to pick me up from that horrible place. Arrangements and provisions had been made for my family and me to leave the country.

I take this opportunity to thank my wife and daughters for their support, Iglesia Bautista Emmanuel in El Salvador, and Emmanuel United Church in Ottawa for all their hard work for my safe release and their role in making arrangements for us to settle in Canada and the opportunity of a new start.

Daniel 2009

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