EDITORS NOTE: This is a second part of an already published story of Hernandez. Read the initial story HERE.
There is still no release date for the political prisoner, Eyvin Hernandez, who was wrongfully detained in Venezuela last year.
March 31 will mark the one-year anniversary since Hernandez was kidnapped and arrested near the Venezuela-Colombia border by Venezuelan military agents.
He was born in El Salvador but after immigrating to the United States as a toddler he lived in several communities in Los Angeles, including Pico-Union, Lawndale, Baldwin Village and South Central Los Angeles. Hernandez is now 44 years old.
He was accompanying a Venezuelan friend to Cucuta, a Colombian town, in order to obtain the passport stamp his friend needed. They were intercepted by masked men in civilian clothes who kidnapped them after Hernandez was not able to pay a $100 bribe because he was not carrying cash.
The official charges against Eyvin by the Venezuelan government include criminal association and conspiracy. His family, especially his younger brother Henry Martinez, has worked tirelessly to bring attention to Hernandez’s case.
CANDLELIGHT VIGIL FOR HERNANDEZ
Last Wednesday, January 18, his friends, family, colleagues and community gathered at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law to demand Hernandez’s immediate release and safe return home.
The candlelight vigil, which lasted about two hours, was filled with relatives and people close to Hernandez, but it also brought out people who had heard of Hernandez’s case through local media. “The Bring Eyvin Home Coalition has been working tirelessly to bring Eyvin home safely and swiftly, “ stated the vigil invitation. “While we are proud of our efforts, Eyvin Hernandez is not back home and more attention and political pressure are needed for our government to act with the urgency the circumstance requires.”
One of the biggest surprises at the vigil was when attendees were able to hear from Hernandez, who was only allowed to speak Spanish due to prison rules. He was able to make a phone call from the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence, the maximum-security military prison in Caracas, Venezuela.
“I can tell you all with an open heart that even as I’m away from home, I feel very close to everyone because I know there are people that I have never met who are fighting for me, friends I have not seen in a long time that are fighting for me, and colleagues from work, too,” Hernandez said.
As Martinez held the phone close to the microphone, Hernandez said his goodbyes. “I don’t know how to thank you all and how to pay it forward but I feel confident. I feel very fortunate to have all the support and love I feel from all of you here. I hope to see you all soon.”
Before becoming a deputy public defender in LA County, Hernandez earned his first bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from UCLA in 2001. He later attended UCLA School of Law, where he worked as an associate editor for the Chicanx-Latinx Law Review.
As the “Bring Eyvin Home Coalition” organizers stated in the vigil invitation, they are attempting to apply political pressure with hopes of speeding up the process of reuniting Hernandez with his loved ones.
LETTER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN
Last month, on December 21, newly elected LA Mayor Karen Bass, Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-San Pedro), and 20 other congressional representatives signed a letter addressed to President Biden, asking his administration to work to secure Hernandez’s freedom and liberation.
“Expeditious action is needed. The charges against Mr. Hernandez include criminal association and conspiracy, which together can result in a sentence of up to 16 years. The judicial system in Venezuela is highly compromised, and any trial against Mr. Hernandez is unlikely to produce a fair result,” stated the invitation. “As elected members of the United States Congress and the Mayor of Los Angeles, we are urging that you take the necessary steps to bring Mr. Hernandez home to his family, friends, and community as soon as possible.”
Liam Forsythe, the Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Barragan, told CALÓ NEWS that sending this letter to the White House is a big accomplishment.
He said when the Bring Eyvin Home Coalition reached out to Barragan, his impression was that they were trying to get as many political leaders to know about Hernandez’s case. “Part of it was trying to figure out what they needed for us and what they were trying to do so that we can be as helpful as possible, as quickly as possible,” Forsythe said. “At the staff level, we were trying to figure out the best way to move forward.”
Forsythe said that when the Bring Eyvin Home Coalition initially reached out, they had already had some contact with Mayor Bass, something that Congresswoman Barragan’s teams felt good about, as that would allow them to easily work with the Mayor and construct a joint letter and get as many Congressional leaders to sign. “[The White House] will prioritize it based on their own internal system,” Forsythe said.
Forsythe also said that Hernandez’s case is a vivid example of many people, both US Citizens and non-US citizens, who are often wrongfully detained in places like Central America. “This is a case we are very concerned about and something we will continue to be working out.”
He said that, for Barragan and her team, this is a case of urgency and that they would not be surprised if Hernandez’s and Barragan’s paths have crossed before in the legal world. “We are almost certain that [Barragan] has had colleagues or friends that have either worked with [Hernandez] or been in court with him at the same time or been in the same circles,” Forsythe said.
The letter sent to Biden also mentioned a September 2022 report from the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (FFMV), which focused on human rights violations and crimes in the context of targeted political repression, security operations and protests. The letter stated that the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that “human rights violations by state intelligence agencies, orchestrated at the highest political levels, have taken place in a climate of almost complete impunity.”
The letter also mentions the report “states that the state intelligence agency, known as SEBIN, ‘has tortured or otherwise ill-treated detainees, including opposition politicians, journalists, protesters, and human rights defenders.”’
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION IN PRISON
The violation of Hernandez’s human rights and his physical, mental and emotional well-being are the top concerns for Hernandez’s family. Martinez said that as strong as he knows his brother is, his mental health concerns him.
“My brother is a strong person, but how he is being treated at that prison can be deteriorating for anyone,” Martinez said. “He is not getting any sunlight, no fresh air, and the food is not nutritious at all. Fortunately, I’m able to have a couple of five-minute phone calls a week with him. “
Someone who knows firsthand what life in prison is like for Eyvin is Osman Khan, an American detained by the Venezuelan government on January 15, 2022, and released as part of an October 1 hostage exchange.
Khan is now back in his hometown in Orlando, Florida, but, just three months ago, Khan was still in the same prison that Hernandez is in today.
During his time there, they both became close friends. “I was wrongfully detained because Venezuela used me as a political pawn,” Khahn told CALÓ NEWS. “I met Eyvin after some time in the prison and we quickly became like brothers at that place.” Khan said his cell was right in front of Hernandez’s. “We only had these very narrow windows and you can only see our faces but we would still talk most of the day.”
For Kahn, time in that prison would have been more difficult without Hernandez’s constant support and positive attitude. “He is such a humble human being. We were sources of positivity for one another, If I was down, he would cheer me up and vice versa,” Khan said.
He said he is still recovering from his time in that prison, which he referred to as a “torture house.”
The prison is underground, Khan said, which makes daily life more difficult. “There’s a lack of oxygen, it’s not a healthy prison to be in,” Khan said. He remembers the bad treatment he and Hernandez had to endure. Khan said the guards and the people working in the prison were “not good people.” “I had forced injections and I was also part of a hunger strike in order for the guards and workers to respect our human rights but in places like that, they do not care about any of that.”
Khan did not get to say his goodbyes to Hernandez. He had no idea he would be released as he was traded in secret. “They have cameras in each of our cells. The guards had told us to keep our mouths shut,“ Khan said. “I was left out of my cell, I had my face covered, I was put in the back of a van, sent to a hospital for a quick check-up and then I was sent to an airport. We landed on an island and traded there.”
Khan misses his good friend and still feels bad for not being able to tell Hernandez that he was leaving. “When I got home, it was one of the happiest days of my life but also one of the saddest because there were some people that were left behind, that did not board that plane, that I wish would’ve also come home, people like Eyvin,” Khan said.
“Eyvin is a mentally strong person but that’s not a place that is fit for any human being. That’s why it’s so important to bring him back home,” Khan said. “When that time comes, I can’t wait to hang out and watch football together.”
When Martinez found out that there had been a prisoner exchange but that Hernandez’s name was not on the list of prisoners that would return back home, he was disappointed. ”I read the names and did not understand why my brother’s name was not there,” Martinez said.
Khan was brought back to the U.S. along with six more prisoners and, in exchange, the Biden administration released two nephews of President Nicolás Maduro’s wife, who had been jailed for years for drug smuggling convictions.
THE FIGHT CONTINUES
The Bring Eyvin Home Coalition is hopeful that an exchange like that of October 1, which Khan was part of, soon repeats itself but with Hernandez, who just turned 44 years old in prison. They hope President Biden can intervene in Hernandez’s case and help bring him back home to LA.
“The longer he is in that prison, the harder it will be for him to adjust when he comes back, “ Martinez said.
To learn more about Eyvin’s case, you can visit his website and, to stay up-to-date with the latest updates, you can follow the Bring Eyvin Home Coalition Instagram.