Tellez set his compelling story in Latin America during a period of numerous military dictatorships that were opposed by rebel groups. Civil war plagued Latin America at this time, and individuals and families were often split between the power of military regimes and rebel groups who had popular support and needed aid and assistance in order to fight the military forces. Captain Torres in this story is the commander of the military forces, and the barber, as the reader comes to realise, is a rebel sympathiser. Note what the barber tells us about Captain Torres:
The day he ordered the whole town to file into the patio of the school to see the four rebels hanging there, I came face to face with him for an instant. But the sight of the mutilated bodies kept me from noticing the face of the man who had directed it all, the face I was now about to take into my hands. It was not an unpleasant face, certainly. And the beard, which made him seem a bit older than he was, didn't suit him badly at all. His name was Torres. Captain Torres. A man of imagination, because who else would have thought of hanging the naked rebels and then holding target practice on certain parts of their bodies?
Captain Torres is therefore a man who is a killer and uses the tactics of fear, terror and torture in order to maintain power and to dissaude others from rebelling against him. The reference to how he killed the four rebels shows how ruthless he is and also hints at the fate of anybody caught trying to oppose him. The story thus presents him as a man who is perfectly willing to kill, maim or torture in any way to sustain and keep power. This of course heightens the dilemma of the barber, as he has the perfect opportunity to kill him whilst giving him a shave.