Where people were sent to disappear

Where people were sent to disappear
A generic rainforest.
PHOTO: Pixabay

Panama's Isla Coiba bears all the hallmarks of a perfect desert island: gin-clear water, powdery white sand, a fringe of palm trees against a backdrop of dense, unexplored rainforest. When I arrived on the island, the peaceful beach was scattered with a handful of travellers bobbing in the bath-warm water or taking lazy afternoon naps on the salt-encrusted hammocks.

It was hard to imagine that this island paradise harboured such a dark past - or has such an uncertain future.

For almost a century, Isla Coiba - which along with 38 other protected islands forms Coiba National Marine Park - was home to a notorious island prison, rumoured to be where the country's most dangerous criminals were sent and where political prisoners disappeared. With the island home to various venomous snakes and insects and surrounded by shark-infested waters, there was no hope of escape for the thousands of prisoners, known as Los Desaparecidos (The Missing).

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