Just a week after Human Rights Watch demanded an impartial and criminal investigation into police abuses in Bocas del Toro, Human Rights Everywhere (HREV) presented a report Wednesday as a result of its investigation of events in Bocas del Toro surrounding the strike of banana plantation workers and the subsequent repression by the police. And the data they offer once again confirms the chilling picture we're all too familiar with by now of death, hundreds of wounded, torture, arbitrary arrests, lack of medical care, and one disappeared person last seen being taken away by a police force that behaved like a bunch of rabid animals.
The main conclusions of the HREV investigation, translated into English by your Bananama Republic:
·Antonio Smith (recognized by the government)
·Virgilio Castillo (recognized by the government)
·Rubén Becker (Epilectic, died as a result of the effects of teargas)
·Leandro Santos (died as a result of the effects of teargas)
Various organizations have demanded investigations into the deaths of Einar Quintero, Marcelina Carpintero and Florinda Peña. Their corpses are in the morgue and it is suspected that they have died of causes related to the police violence.
Then there is one person, Valentín Palacio, who was arrested by the police - seen by various witnesses - on finca 66, and hasn't been seen or heard from since.
Wounded treated in Panama City
A total of 68 wounded victims were treated in various Panama City hospitals. Of those, 58 presented "major trauma" in one or both eyes, various are now blind or will be.
Three victims had internal traumas; one perforated lung, one with damaged kidneys and liver, and one with perforated intestines.
The others suffered from wounds, most caused by bullets and birdshot.
Body parts suffering from bullet impacts and beatings
·Head: 43 cases / Eyes: 34 / Torso: 52 / Back: 60 / Legs: 69/ Arms:72 [This means that the government claim of aiming at the legs is a lie. But we knew that already - BR]
Insufficient medical attention
The general practice has been to send the wounded home with antibiotics or analgesics. Many people did not receive medical attention because they were either afraid of being arrested or did not have social security/enough money to pay for a doctor.
Detentions and use of force
Of the 405 documented cases, there were 39 people formally detained. They generally were held for 3 to 5 days in the Changuinola police station. Of the total, 5 were transfered to Panama City, and brought to the prosecutor's office before being transferred to a hospital.
Treatment of those detained in Changuinola
Of those interviewed, 23 persons say they received insults; 18 were threatened; 13 were deprived of sleep (they were held seated or loud bells sounded every hour); 21 didn't get anything to eat during the duration of their detention; various persons said that they were arrested leaving the hospital or trying to get there to receive medical attention; there are various testimonies of torture in Changuinola; one person was put down on his knees, handcuffed, had a gun pointed at him (fake execution) and was then held incommunicado. Others were beaten, sprayed in the face with pepper spray.
There was one case where the police poured vinegar in open wounds, and another one where they put gasoline in the food. Many prisoners were denied medical attention and were stripped naked and humiliated, while others were denied use of bathrooms.
There is testimony of a woman who was arrested when she went to search for her daughter who had been intoxicated by teargas. The woman, accompanied by two friends, was arrested, stripped naked and insulted in a hallway of the comisaría.
Excessive use of force
Our field team has established clearly that the police used excessive force on July 7,8,9 and 10.
Many of the wounded testified that the police shot them from up close. Some say "they shot to kill". Others say they were fired at from as little as 5 meters, up to 20.
One of the wounded, who witnessed Virgilio Castillo being killed, heard the police say, "It's good to kill indians".
Various witnesses claim they have seen arms and ammunition being transported in an ambulance of the social security. Others insist that vehicles of SINAPROC (national institution for the protection of civilians - disaster rescue and such) transported riot police.
A majority of those interviewed mentioned insults, beatings and maltreatment of people who weren't even involved in the protests, as well as raiding of homes without any warrant using excessive violence.
"Friday July 9th, the riot police entered Finca 11 from where mothers, children and elder persons left. We all ran towards the banana plantation. My daughter was intoxicated and I, crying, faced the police, asking them, begging them not to enter the plantation...... and they shot teargas from the air. I had to show them a recently born baby and they had no mercy with nobody!"
"They told me that my daughter was intoxicated with teargas and I went to look for her with three friends. Three policemen showed up and arrested us, without any motive. We were brought to the police station. I always thought that if they take your clothes or strip search you, this is done by another woman. But not here. They stripped us naked in the hallway and started to insult us, "morons!" In other words, they were discriminating us. I could see the male prisoners and learned that they weren't getting any water nor food. As we were the only females, at least they gave us food, but not them. And there was no sanitary service. We shared our food with everyone. They have treated us like animals. We all voted for Martinelli for a better future, but we got a free ride to death".
"The police even entered houses with women and babies inside, they didn't care about anything, and there in Finca 66 they said to the people, "tell these ignorant indians that we're going to kill them"..... And they shot to kill, someone had ordered them, they wouldn't do that without an order from very high up.... someone gave the order to the sub-commissar".
"The food they sent us [the "aid" the Martinelli government flew in to look good - BR] was nothing, just canned tuna and sardines past the expiry date and it's making our children sick".
"They grabbed people randomly and beat them with their batons, even people who had nothing to do with the protests they grabbed. And they would grab and beat all the indigenous people because they saw us as animals, they treated us like dogs".
"I saw how they entered homes, with birdshot to stop those coming out. The real injustice was with the indigenous people. These were what they were looking for, to take them in and beat them up. It was rare to see them search a latino. I saw how they beat and kicked the wounded, it was horrible."
Meanwhile, police chief and war criminal Gustavo Perez said the police did nothing wrong.