A foreign journalist arrives on a small Pacific island 200 miles off the coast of South America. Once a leper colony, the island was later transformed into a prison and then, under U.N. mandate, made into an independent republic. Yet despite democratic structures, the inhabitants--who speak a strange dialect composed of Spanish and English--still obey the old prison rules. After sending back detailed accounts of the torture and repression seen everywhere, the journalist realizes that she"s fallen into the trap created for her by the islanders: lacking natural resources, the island"s main export is news. The clearest anticipation of Ruiz"s later European work, The Penal Colony is a powerful document of the tensions and contradictions in Chile in the months before Allende"s electoral victory.