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Updated 03/09/2008

Remembering 25 Years Ago—March 1983

March 13
Inés Consuelo Murillo Schwaderer, a 24-year-old political activist, and her Salvadoran companion, José Gonzalo Flores Trejos, are detained by men claiming to be immigration agents, who beat them, bind and blindfold them, and take them to a house on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula, where they are held in the basement for more than a month. At the time, Murillo is working as an adviser to peasant organizations and researching her student thesis on the recuperation of peasant lands, both considered subversive activities. She is also alleged to be a member of an armed leftist group known as the Lorenzo Zelaya Popular Revolutionary Forces.

During this month of captivity, Murillo is severely tortured in order to extract a confession of involvement in guerrilla activities. She later testifies, “I was tied up and beaten. I was left naked most of the time and was given almost nothing to eat ... I suffered electroshocks, hanging, suffocation attempts …They burned my legs, made cuts in my skin with needles, made me lose my sense of time and space, drugged me and sexually abused me.”

After 36 days, she is transferred to a secret jail at a military complex called INDUMIL, where many other illegal detainees are housed and which is off limits to Honduran government officials and judges attempting to locate disappearance victims. Here the abuse continues, and her interrogators also employ CIA-style psychological methods—making her stand for hours without being allowed to sleep or go to the bathroom, throwing ice water on her naked body, and serving her dead rats for dinner. Her cell contains a 55-gallon water tank, into which she is dunked headfirst when she refuses to answer questions.

Murillo is held for a total of 78 days, during which time she is visited by an American who is later confirmed, through testimony of a Honduran military officer and the CIA deputy director for operations, to have been a CIA officer. Although the officer orders the water drum removed, her illegal captivity and interrogation continue. Murillo is later able to identify two of the Honduran officers responsible for her torture and interrogation; both had received CIA training.

No warrant is ever issued for Murillo’s arrest, nor is she allowed to see a lawyer or her family. Her mother, a German national who works for the United Nations, seeks help from German and U.N. officials, one of whom speaks with numerous ambassadors and Honduran military officers. Murillo’s father speaks regularly to reporters and seeks the help of government officials and diplomats, even traveling to the United States to speak with congressional aides. He also obtains the names of Honduran officers posted at INDUMIL as well as the name of an American believed to be the CIA officer, and he writes a letter to the Honduran foreign minister threatening to publicly reveal this information.

The family's pressure is finally enough, and on May 31, 1983, Murillo and Flores are released from INDUMIL and taken to a public jail. The two are brought before a Honduran court on false charges that include robbery and arms possession. Although they testify to the torture they endured, they are found guilty of treason and attempting to overthrow the government and are sentenced to two years in jail. Murillo, however, is granted release after 13 months, but she is ordered to leave the country.

Murillo has since dedicated her life to human rights work, but she has never attempted to bring her own case to justice.

For more information, read the full case history.


“Testifying to torture." James LeMoyne. The New York Times Magazine; June 5, 1988.

“A survivor tells her story." (Third of a four-part series.) Gary Cohn and Ginger Thompson. The Baltimore Sun; June 15, 1995. 

Excerpts from “Selected Issues Relating to CIA Activities in Honduras in the 1980s.” U.S. CIA Office of the Inspector General. Aug. 27, 1997. (Published by the National Security Archive.)

“Former envoy to Honduras says he did what he could.” The Baltimore Sun; December 15, 1995.

March 15
Melba Cáceres Mondragón, a Nicaraguan citizen residing legally in Honduras, disappears after being detained in the village of San Francisco, in Choluteca province, by heavily armed men identifying themselves as members of the Honduran army. In 1987, Florencio Caballero, a former member of the Honduran Military Intelligence Battalion 3-16, admits in a public hearing before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that he participated in Cáceres Mondragón’s detention. He says she was first taken to a clandestine jail near a military complex known as INDUMIL and later transferred to a police station in the "El Manchén" neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, which was used for the detention and torture of political dissidents. According to confidential information obtained by the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras, Cáceres Mondragón was ultimately taken to the Regional Military Training Center, in the north of the country, where it is assumed that she was executed. Her whereabouts are still unknown.
“Honduras: The Facts Speak for Themselves.” The Preliminary Report of the National Commissioner for the Protection of Human Rights in Honduras. Human Rights Watch; July 1994

Comité de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras Web site, Desaparecidos en 1983.
March 17
Members of the Honduran Public Security Forces raid the home of José Martínez Vásquez, in Comayagüela, in the middle of the night, brutally beating him and taking him away in an unmarked vehicle. In June 1983, the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras files a habeas corpus request on his behalf, but to no avail. A secret Honduran Armed Forces document dated Nov. 30, 1984, confirms that Martínez Vásquez was abducted on the orders of Battalion 3-16. The whereabouts of Martínez Vásquez remain unknown.

“Honduras: The Facts Speak for Themselves.” The Preliminary Report of the National Commissioner for the Protection of Human Rights in Honduras. Human Rights Watch; July 1994

Comité de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras Web site, Desaparecidos en 1983.