Los Angeles attorney jailed in Venezuela speaks out: 'It's very difficult on the human mind'

"There are no rights here," said Eyvin Hernandez.

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Saturday, September 24, 2022 7:07AM
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A Los Angeles attorney detained in Venezuela is pleading for help from the Biden administration, saying in a jailhouse message that he feels forgotten by the U.S. government.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The family of a Los Angeles County Public Defender who has been detained in Venezuela since March said they want to sit down with President Joe Biden to ask him to help bring their loved one home.

Eyvin Hernandez's mother, Ana Lucia Sandoval, sat in agony speaking with her son over the phone on Friday, telling Hernandez in Spanish that she loved him and asked him to take care of himself.

Eyewitness News was with his mother and brother, Henry Martinez, to capture his latest call to his family, feeling the family's frustration every time they lost connection.

Hernandez's colleague Drew Havens said Hernandez has dedicated his life to helping other and it pains him to see him go through this.

"Eyvin's been a public servant for Los Angeles County for 15 years," said Havens. "He deserves our public figures to be advocating for his release directly to the president."

According to his family, Hernandez was on vacation in Colombia with a friend and accompanied her to the Venezuelan border so she could have her passport stamped.

While in a cab, a man joined them, offering to be their tour guide.

Instead, they came across a group that wanted cash, but Hernandez told them he didn't have any.

"He says, 'I'm not trying to cross. I'm just simply accompanying my friend to get her passport stamped,'" and they seen that he was an American and basically kidnapped," Martinez said.

Hernandez was accused of conspiracy and criminal association. He was informed the investigation was supposed to last 45 days, but it's been nearly six months.

When ABC7 was finally able to get a good connection, Hernandez told Eyewitness News he was in a maximum security cell for political prisoners at the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligance, or DGCIM, building.

Hernandez said there was no hope he and the other detainees there would get a fair trial.

"There are no rights here," he said. "The judges are paid actors. The district attorneys are paid actors. The defense attorneys are paid actors. They don't actually do justice or law or anything like that. They just do what they're told."

The American detainee also said conditions were inhumane.

"There are no windows. There's nothing. I mean, we're basically in a garage being held in a cell, a cage," Hernandez said.

He said two other detainees have tried to commit suicide and a third is now mentally unstable.

"It's very difficult on the human mind and there's only so much that people can take and I'm afraid for, you know, these people are my brothers now," he said. "They're my family and I'm afraid for them because I see the daily accumulation of this torture, of this trauma and I don't know how much longer any of us can last."

In statement emailed to Eyewitness News on Friday, a spokesperson with the State Department confirmed the arrestin 2022 of a U.S. citizen in Venezuela.

Below is the statement in its entirety:

"We can confirm the arrest in 2022 of a U.S. citizen in Venezuela. We take seriously our commitment to assist U.S. citizens abroad. We arein touch with the family and are closely monitoring the situation.The U.S. Department of State has no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas. We take seriously our commitment to inform U.S. citizens living or traveling overseas of potential risks.The Department continuously reviews the circumstances surrounding the detentions of U.S. nationals overseas for indicators that they are wrongful. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment at this time.The U.S. Department of State's Travel Advisory for Venezuela lists the country as Level 4: Do not travel due to crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, kidnapping and exercise increased caution in Venezuela due to terrorism and wrongful detentions. The full Travel Advisory is available on our website."

Worried he and the other detainees are political pawns, Hernandez urged Biden to take action.

"That's what we've been told through media and other government officials. Not directly to us and so, once again, if the government doesn't do that, we just languish here forever and we never get out," Hernandez said.

His family is now urging Biden to hear their plea.

"The president is the only person that can do anything about our condition," Hernandez said.

If found guilty on the charges against him, Hernandez could face 16 years in prison.

As of Friday afternoon, nearly 2,300 people had signed a Change.org petition calling for Hernandez's relase. Hernandez's plight is also described on the website bringeyvinhome.org.

His family has also started a GoFundMe to help bring awareness to Hernandez's case.