CALL TO ACTION - Add your name to the People's Human Rights Observatory's declaration in support of prisoners' demands for better conditions and dignified treatment in Colombia, Canada, and the United States.
We, the People’s Human Rights Observatory (Observatorio de los Derechos Humanos), declare our solidarity with the worldwide resistance to prison imperialism and reject the expansion of the United States model of mass incarceration. Likewise, we express our support for the demands of the prisoners of La Tramacúa Penitentiary in Valledupar, Colombia, and of the prisoners of various North American penitentiaries, and their desires for dignified lives.
The prisoners of La Tramacúa waged a hunger strike for more than a month, beginning on July 11, 2018. Their demands included calls for access to water, ventilation, and medical attention. People interned in jails of the United States and Canada have been in the largest prison strike in the history of the region since August 21, 2018: strikes in 17 U.S. states and some Canadian jails. The demands of the North American prisoners are similar to those of the La Tramacúa strikers, for medical attention and against the excessive number of deaths due to lack of medical care and penal system abuses. Especially, the North American strikers denounce the racism of the penal and justice system that has found new wayt to convert jails into centers of slavery.
The strikes have had an emblematic significance internationally. The United States has the largest population of the incarcerated – 2.3 million inmates – and the highest rate in the world of its population in jails. Meanwhile, while non-Hispanic White people constitute 63.7% of the U.S. population, persons of African and Latino origins represent almost two thirds of the prisoners in the United States. People who lack a GED (General Education Diploma) or high school degree represent 47% of the incarcerated. With less than 5% of the world population, the United States has 25% of the world prison population. Apparently, the U.S. government considers this a good situation. Today, the United States is exporting its models of mass incarceration to the world and has involved itself in the prison systems of at least 34 countries. In some of these countries, they are not only financing and advising the construction of new jails, but also restructuring whole prison systems.
Prison Imperialism began in the year 2000 when the United States and Colombia signed an accord to restructure the South American country’s penal system following the US example.The first penitentiary built as a consequence of this project was La Tramacúa, finished in November of that same year. Since then, overcrowding in Colombian prisons climbed to its highest level in recent history. In 2018, overcrowding was still at an unacceptable rate of 45.6%, according to government statistics. From the beginning, La Tramacúa has been a Hell for its inmates. Various prisoners have been victims of systematic tortures, particularly political prisoners. The lack of access to healthcare is endemic and has resulted in the deaths of various prisoners. Despite the jail’s location in a place where temperatures reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit, ventilation is insufficient, and the water supply is limited to between 10 and 20 minutes daily. Toilets rarely function, and the inmates must evacuate in plastic bags and buckets. On at least four occasions, governmental and non-governmental agencies have encountered putrid food and food contaminated with fecal matter.
The model presently developed in Colombia is based in the U.S. model, with variations in style to adapt to the particularities of the Latin American nation. Many of the demands of the prisoners in the United States and Canada are the same as those of the Colombian prisoners. In the United States the strike has an especially anti-racist character: the strike exposes the history of forced labor in the United States. After the Civil War and the end of slavery, the authorities began to detain Afro-descendants to demand that they work with little or no remuneration and thus assure the flow of profits to the pockets of big land owners and industrial capitalists. This situation continues in a system that incarcerates Afro-descendants, Latinos, indigenous persons, and poor people at rates that exceed the percentage of the general population that they represent, despite the fact that the rates of crime among the different populations are around the national average.
The People’s Human Rights Observatory recognizes that the struggles of the prisoners of La Tramacúa and of the U.S. and Canadian jails are not isolated from each other, nor from the rest of the world. Prison Imperialism is not simply an attempt to spread the U.S. model throughout the planet. Prison Imperialism is part of the infrastructure of the U.S. and NATO Empire in service to global capitalism, the same as the expansion of U.S. and NATO bases in the world, police militarization, border militarization, and the development of neoliberal economics. With all of this, we say to the prisoners and strikers in the jails of Colombia, North America, and the whole world: YOUR STRUGGLE IS OUR STRUGGLE!
Senator Piedad Córdoba, Colombianas y Colombianos por la Paz
Camilo González Posso President of INDEPAZ
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize Winner
Alliance for Global Justice
Consejo de Defensa de los Pueblos
Movimiento Nacional de Poder Popular
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign
Corriente Revolucionaria Bolívar y Zamora de Venezuela
Soldepaz – Pachakuti
Let us know if you are interested in participating and/or organizing an activity in one or more of the areas of work listed below will help build a North American voice against sanctions imposed on Venezuela: