Stamps commemorating the 38 th anniversary of DISIP( National Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services) in 2007. Photo: Archivo Fotografia Urbana/ Proyecto Helicoide
” There are at least three rooms used for torture, and we couldn’t sleep because we would hear the hollers all night: people who would appear and disappear ,” he said.
Prisoners include both men and women, maintained on separate floors. Torments reported to Mantilla include people being beaten, electrocuted, hung by their extremities, forced into stress positions and forced to plunge their face into a bag of faeces and breathe in.
Problems of overcrowding are now far worse. After months of political upheaval and street protests, there are currently thought to be more than 300 people crammed into cells that already felt mobbed with 80, according to the campaign group Una Ventana a la Libertad( A Window on Freedom ).
El Helicoide makes an unusually high-profile prison for political detainees: a landmark building visible from across the city. But the secret police are so unambiguously proud of their unique headquarters that in 2007 they issued a series of stamps to celebrate it.
The fate of El Helicoide- constructed amid dreamings of prosperity, but now in a state of slow disintegrate- reflects Venezuela’s recent history. Spellbound by the promise of easy petroleum wealth, the country’s leaders focused on gleaming trophies and forgot the people they ruled, most of whom are still living in desperate poverty.
Olalquiaga still hopes the building can be rescued from disintegration and its grim new reputation, by a government more dedicated to serving its people than controlling them.” What should happen is the one thing which has never happened, the communities that surround it should be asked what they want ,” she said.” El Helicoide has suffered for all kinds of reasons, and it is unable to and should be re-purposed. I don’t think the situation is doomed .”