Three Southland congresswomen Tuesday jointly introduced a resolution calling for the immediate release of a Los Angeles County public defender who has been imprisoned in Venezuela for more than a year — the latest of several pushes by area elected officials to free the man.
Reps. Sydney Kamlager-Dove and Nanette Barragán, both D-Los Angeles, joined Rep. Young Kim, R-Orange County, and Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, in calling on the Venezuelan “regime” to immediately release Eyvin Hernandez, who has been in custody in the South American country since March 2022 in what the resolution calls an “unjust imprisonment,” and which the U.S. State Department has classified as a wrongful detention.
Hernandez, an LA County deputy public defender for 15 years, was on vacation in Colombia when he joined a friend on a trip to the Colombian-Venezuelan border to resolve a passport issue involving the friend’s stay in Venezuela.
At the border, Hernandez and his friend were intercepted by what has been described in various reports as either a paramilitary group, a gang or official Venezuelan forces. Hernandez and his friend were eventually turned over to Venezuelan security forces and jailed in a maximum security prison in Caracas.
Hernandez is accused of criminal association and conspiracy, which are punishable by up to 16 years in jail in Venezuela.
“I stand in solidarity with Eyvin and the Los Angeles County community and call on the (Biden) Administration to do whatever is required to secure Eyvin’s freedom,” Kamlager-Dove — in whose 37th Congressional District Hernandez lives — said in a statement Tuesday. “Every day that passes without Eyvin is pain that his loved ones should have never had to endure. I will always keep fighting to bring Eyvin home.”
Barragán, who is chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a statement, “Eyvin Hernandez’s continued wrongful detention in Venezuela is unacceptable and it’s time for him to come home.”
“Mr. Hernandez had no intention of entering Venezuela, and the charges brought against him have been shown to be completely false,” Barragán added.
“We made clear to President Biden in December, that the judicial system in Venezuela is highly compromised, and any trial against Eyvin is unlikely to be carried out in a just manner or produce a fair result. … Congresswoman Kamlager-Dove and I are proud to lead the call for the immediate release of our fellow Angeleno, Eyvin Hernandez, and encourage President Biden and his Administration to use all available means to quickly do so.”
Said Kim, who is chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Indo-Pacific, “This resolution will send a unified message from Congress for our support for Eyvin and his family as we call on the Biden Administration to act. I am proud to join Rep. Kamlager-Dove in this bipartisan effort.”
Kamlager-Dove’s office said the State Department’s Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs has been working to secure Hernandez’s release, but there has yet to be a breakthrough.
Tuesday’s resolution says the Venezuelan judicial system has made “no serious effort to provide legitimate evidence to corroborate these allegations nor to hold trial proceedings to adjudicate his case, highlighting the fabricated grounds for Eyvin’s detention.”
It also “condemns the Venezuelan regime’s continued use of detentions of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents for political purposes.”
The congressional resolution follows actions in June by the LA City Council, which approved two related motions calling on Biden and the State Department to take any actions necessary to free Hernandez. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a similar motion last October.
In December, LA Mayor Karen Bass joined Barragán and other congressional representatives in sending a joint letter to Biden, asking his administration to work to free Hernandez.