For much of El Frontón's history, the island was used as aprison. Fernando Belaúnde Terry, who was twice president of Peru, was imprisoned on the island as a political prisoner. During his imprisonment, Belaúnde Terry made an unsuccessful attempt to swim to freedom. Hugo Blancowas also imprisoned on the island.
During the insurgency of the Shining Path, the island was used as a prison for Maoist militants. On June 18, 1986, the Shining Path led an uprising on El Frontón as well as two other prisons. The government of Alan García treated the prisons as war zones, and the Peruvian Navy was sent to the island. Many of the prisoners involved in the rebellion were killed, and Human Rights Watch claimed that evidence suggested that "no fewer than ninety" of the prisoners killed were victims of extrajudicial executions.
- ^ Pennington, Richard (January/February 1995). "Nation Builder: The epic life of Peru's Fernando Belaúnde Terry, BAR '35". The Alcalde. University of Texas at Austin Alumni Magazine (Emmis Communications): p. 20. ISSN 1061-561X.
- ^ Mora, Carlos (2007). Latinos in the West: the student movement and academic labor in Los Angeles. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 83. ISBN 0742547841.
- ^ (Spanish) Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Las ejecuciones extrajudiciales en el penal de El Frontón y Lurigancho (1986).
- ^ "World Prison Massacres". Human Rights Watch. Archived from the original on February 2, 2008.
- ^ Weschler, Joanna (1993). The Human Rights Watch global report on prisons. Human Rights Watch. p. 93. ISBN 1564321010.
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