Venezuela: How dis shopping mall turn to hell fire

El Helicoide for di heart of Caracas Image copyright Archivo FotografĂ­a Urbana / Proyecto Helicoide

One former prisoner, Carlos tell BBC say, "Dem cover my head wit bag, beat me, come use electric shock me for head, private part and my belle."

E happun for di centre of di Venezuelan capital Caracas, one ogbonge tower wey dem dey call El Helicoide tanda dia.

Dem build El Helicoide for di 1950s wen Venezuela bin get plenti oil moni. Venezuela bin get plans to make di building one of di most ogbonge shopping mall for world wey go get heliport, hotel, correct technology and 300 boutiques.

But today, dem don turn di building to one of di prison wey pipo dey fear pass for world.

Di building na one of di symbols of di serious dabaru wey Venezuela economy dey face currently.

Afta dem overthrow former leader of di kontri, Perez Jimenez, di building bin dey empty for years until goment begin transfer some state agencies go like di kontri intelligence unit - Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN). Like play like play, dem begin use El Helicoide detain both ordinary and political prisoners.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image example El Helicoide na di headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN)

Place of fear

BBC tok wit some of di former prisoners, including dia family pipo, lawyers, NGOs and two former prison guards to describe how life be for El Helicoide but we hide dia identity because dem dey fear di goment.

32-year-old Rosmit Mantilla wey be LGBT rights activist na one of di 3000 pipo wey dem arrest for 2014 as anti-goment protests shele for di kontri.

Economic and political katakata affect Venezuela sotay to see food and medicine begin hard day by day, inflation increase and public services wan almost collapse.

Manuel wey be former prison officer for El Helicode tell BBC say dem dey always arrest plenti pipo to put fear for dia mind.

"And I feel say e work one kain. Because nowadays, wen protest dey happen, Venezuelans dey fear to comot because dem no want make anybody arrest dem," Manuel tok.

Image copyright Reuters
Image example Dem arrest thousands of Venezuelans as dem dey do I-no-go-gree for anti-government protests for 2014 and 2017


Offices, toilets, staircase and spaces wey suppose be for boutiques before na im di goment convert to cells for prisoners.

Di prisoners give di cells names - di Fish Tank, Little Tiger and Little Hell but na Guantanamo worst pass all of dem.

Mantilla say Guantanamo no get light, no water, no toilet, no bed, nobodi dey clean am and di walls get blood and poo poo stains.

Image example As di number of prisoners bin dey rise for El Helicoide, dem convert offices, toilets and even staircases to cells

Torture na normal level

One former prisoner, Carlos tell BBC wetin im suffer for El Helicoide. Im say dem cover im head wit bag, beat am well-well, come use electric shock am for im head, private part and belle.

Mantilla say im hear tori about some pipo wey dem use objects wey no sharp rape dem, odas chop electric shock while dem blindfold some for days.

For February 2018, di International Criminal Court begin torchlight di mata. Venezuela say dem go cooperate wit investigation.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image example Since im release, Mantilla don dey yan about di horrors wey im see for El Helicoide

Di BBC don try plenti times to reach di Venezuelan authorities to answer questions about di El Helicoide accuse but di goment neva respond.

Dem release Mantilla for November 2016 and afta some days, dem swear am in as Congressman. But for July 2017, im japa go France unto say im dey fear for im life for Venezuela.

Mantilla still dey hope say one day, im go return to im home kontri.

* Producer / Illustrator: Charlie Newland

Di scenes wey show for dis tori dey based on how di interviewees take describe am, history materials and recent pictures wey dem share give us from inside di prison.

We gats change some details to protect di identity of di interviewees and we change dia names. Di detainees wey we interview don comot for di cell and most of dem don comot for Venezuela.

Sources: OAS, Human Right Watch, Amnesty International, IACHR, IMF, UN, Foro Penal, Justicia y Proceso, Una Ventana a la Libertad.

Special tuale to Celeste Olalquiaga for di informate about El Helicoide, detainees, family pipo, solicitors and human rights activists wey help for dis investigation.

Topics Wey Dem Resemble

Another thing we de for inside dis tori