How a journalist was silenced

ON THE NIGHT OF July 8, 1982, a dozen soldiers wearing black ski masks and carrying automatic rifles raided the home of Oscar Reyes, a journalist who wrote articles critical of the Honduran military.

Helicopters hovered above the two-story, brick house as Reyes and his wife, Gloria, were tied up and driven to an abandoned house.

They say they were stripped and tortured as accused subversives.

"I told them, 'I'm not a terrorist. I never have been a terrorist,'" recalled Reyes.

"They tied my hands behind my back, hung me from the ceiling and beat me like a pinata."

Reyes, now 59 and a U.S. citizen, lives with his wife in Vienna, Va.

In an interview, the couple recalled the torture they endured at the hands of Battalion 316.

Reyes says his ribs were cracked with rifle butts in one room of the secret jail while his wife was shocked with electricity in another.

Gloria Reyes, 54, says torturers attached wires to her breasts and vagina and shocked her over and over.

"The first jolt was so bad I just wanted to die. It was horrible," she said. "But then it was very strange, my body became numb. And when they shocked me again, I felt my body shake, but there was not a lot of pain."

She says that she peeked through the rags tied around her eyes and saw blood running down her legs.

"I started to feel sick," she said. "I vomited and I fainted."

Through her blindfold, Gloria Reyes could see the bare walls of the living room, the gray concrete floor stained with blood and vomit. In an adjacent bathroom, she saw a blindfolded woman crouching in a corner. She wore a flowered skirt splotched with blood.

Gloria Reyes remembers the woman's screams. "She said, 'Please, just kill me. Look what you have done. Look at me. Why don't you just kill me?'"

The abduction of the Reyeses caused such a public outcry that Honduran authorities felt compelled to release them.

After a week, the Reyeses were taken to a public court and convicted of subversive activity and sentenced to six months in prison. They were released after five months.

Cresencio S. Arcos, who was press spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras when the Reyeses were kidnapped by Battalion 316, says that they were not subversives.

"It appeared to be pointless," said Arcos, who later became U.S. ambassador to Honduras. "To silence him over newspaper articles was ridiculous."