The family of a Los Angeles man detained in Venezuela earlier this year is publicly appealing to the US government to help secure his release, fearing he could be held long-term as a political bargaining chip.
Eyvin Hernandez, a 44-year-old lawyer and criminal justice advocate in LA, was picked up by Venezuelan security forces on 31 March near the Colombia-Venezuela border and is facing “criminal association” and “conspiracy” charges, his family says.
Hernandez is known in California for his longtime work as a public defender representing low-income defendants and his mentorship of new attorneys and students.
“I beg the US government to do something for my son,” Ana Sandoval, Hernandez’s mother, pleaded in tears. “Me and my whole family are devastated. My son is an honest man. He hasn’t committed any crime.”
Hernandez was on vacation in Colombia and accompanying a Venezuelan friend to the border when he was arrested near the city of Cúcuta and later taken to a military counterintelligence holding facility in Caracas, according to his family, who says he had no intention of entering Venezuela.
He is loved here, and he is more valuable to the world being free and advocating for justice for the Latino community …
While abroad, Hernandez had given regular updates to his family, letting them know he was doing well and saying a daily goodnight to his parents, the family said. But days before he was due to come home, he stopped contacting them or responding to messages.
As days passed with no contact, the family reached out to hospitals and law enforcement officials in Colombia and had authorities visit his Airbnb, where they found his belongings left behind. “I couldn’t find any information, and I had images in my head of identifying his body,” his brother, Henry Martinez, said.
Eventually, Martinez got a WhatsApp message from a public defender in Venezuela saying his brother was in custody. After about 50 days, Martinez also got a phone call from his brother, who said he was waiting to have a hearing.