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News Link • Torture

Torturers' confessions

• Ginger Thompson and Gary Cohn

He recalled how he nearly suffocated people with rubber masks, how he attached wires to their genitals and shocked them with electricity, how he tore off a man's testicles with a rope.

"We let them stay in their own excrement," he said, his gold front tooth reflecting the dim lamplight. "When they were very weak, we would take them to disappear."

Images such as these cast a shadow over the lives of Barrera and other men who served in Battalion 316, a CIA-trained military unit that terrorized Honduras for much of the 1980s.

At a time when Honduras was crucial to the U.S. government's war on communism in Central America, the battalion was created and trained to collect intelligence. But it also stalked, kidnapped, tortured and murdered hundreds of Honduran men and women suspected of subversion.

At least 184 of the battalion's victims are missing and presumed dead. They are called "desaparecidos," Spanish for the "disappeared."

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