LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán and other congressional representatives sent a joint letter to President Joe Biden Wednesday asking his administration to work to secure the freedom of a Southland public defender imprisoned in Venezuela.
Eyvin Hernandez has been a Los Angeles County deputy public defender for 15 years. While on vacation in Colombia in late March, Hernandez 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 with up to 16 years in jail in Venezuela.
In the letter sent to Biden Wednesday, the elected officials stressed that "expeditious action is needed."
"The charges against Mr. Hernandez include criminal association and conspiracy, and together could result in a sentence of up to 16 years," the letter states. "The judicial system in Venezuela is highly compromised, and any trial against Mr. Hernandez is unlikely to produce a fair result. ... The Biden Administration must take immediate action to return Eyvin Hernandez home to his family, friends, and community in Los Angeles."
In October, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution urging federal authorities to work to bring Hernandez home.
That vote came days after Venezuela freed seven American prisoners in exchange for the release of two nephews of President Nicholas Maduro's wife. Those nephews were imprisoned in United States on drug smuggling convictions.
Hernandez's family issued a statement at the time saying they were "devastated' that Hernandez was not included in the prisoner swap, but they expressed hope that the government is working to get Americans out of Venezuelan custody.
In a statement released by Barragán's office Wednesday, Hernandez's brother begged the Biden administration to intervene.
"My brother Eyvin has been held captive in a dungeon and denied freedom in Caracas, Venezuela, for far too long -- nearly nine months too long," Henry Martinez said. "It is unbearable for myself, my mom and dad, my children, and his many friends to see him suffer and to find ourselves helpless in rescuing him from this misery he is in."