Testimonies 2017

“We’re all threatened”

Mariana Hernáiz

“One more week, five more days, three more days. On May 5 I said goodbye to my son at Maiquetía airport. It was happy and sad, but happier than sad. Thank God, I said.

I’ve seen how they take the kids away. They mistreat them. They torture them. They kill them. I put myself in the shoes of those mothers, and I thought how they must be totally destroyed. I prayed for them. I was scared for him and I waited for that day. I wasn’t afraid that they’d take him at a demonstration, because I wouldn’t let him go alone, but he’s young, he’s got tattoos and piercings. He’s a filmmaker and that alone is enough to get arrested. A little more than a month after that, my dog was killed inside my home. If he was here that night, they would have taken him. I was right. Mother’s intuition. If he’d been at home that day, it would have ended in another death, because I wouldn’t have let them take him.

Tuesday June 13, 6pm

Yasmin, my sister-in-law, was at a neighbor’s place in the next apartment block. She had phlebitis, so Yasmin was looking after her. We knew they were coming because our neighbors keeping watch from their apartments started banging their pots. This set off other neighbors who had recorded the sirens on their sound systems. Our security drill worked.

Twenty minutes later they shut off the power in all the buildings. They were inside.

Yasmin had to open the door to two officers without ID. It was dark and they had 3 torches.

“How many people are in this apartment?”

“Four people and one is sick.”



“Ah, you’re that shameless old woman who’s hiding terrorists and stuff in her house.”

“I’m a community worker, I take care of the building.”


“I’ll have to go home to get it. I don’t have it here.”

“So you’re hiding here?”

“Brother, I’ve just told you what I’m doing here. I’m looking after a sick woman.”

“Let’s go.”

They took photos of her on their cell phones and she co-operated: they told her to look at the camera. They’d shut off power to the elevators, so they went down the stairs in one block and up the stairs in another.

She warned them that there were pets in the apartment and asked for permission to tie them up. Yasmin was worried because she knew what Cross was like.

“It’s me, Mariana. I’m here with some officers. Get the dogs”

I opened and some officers entered. But Cross managed to get out and wanted to play with the officers left outside. One of them took him to one side. Yasmin tried to grab him the officer shot him in the head. The noise was deafening. Cross collapsed.

Yasmin isn’t my sister-in-law, she’s my sister. I divorced her brother and I gained a family. We’ve lived together for about ten years. After my children left, it was just us two and two cats and four dogs, now three. Cross was part of the family.

She picked him up and put him in my son’s bedroom. When I opened the door, she left and went into my room. I picked him up and I lost it.

“You killed my dog! Why did you have to shoot him?”

“I told you to tie him up.”

“I told you he wouldn’t do anything. That he wouldn’t bite you, that he wouldn’t attack you.”

They insulted us and left. Cross didn’t whine but he was finding it difficult to breathe. He was gasping for breath. They took off part of his face. His eye was in the corridor. He was bleeding profusely.

He calmed down with me. He growled at everyone else. He was suffering.

They cut the cables of twelve elevators. They fell to the bottom, destroyed. They damaged the water tanks. They broke the noticeboards. They took the keys from the concierge and the superintendent, as well as the buzzers for the parking lot. Before they came to our apartment, I heard someone scream:

“They’re in the basement!”

And one of them replied:

“Shut up, dumbass. You’re a dumbass.”

There were neighbors who gave up their kids’ friends, kids who we’ve watched grow up.

I leave everything in the hands of God.

My children are both in New York. I didn’t want to tell them what had happened to Cross. I didn’t want to cause them that pain. My last message was that they were going to operate, and that we were hopeful. The next day they found out what happened on social media:

“Mom, why didn’t you tell me the truth? I tweeted about his operation, and that we were
optimistic, Mom.”

There was no way of saving Cross, and so to stop his pain and suffering, we decided to end his life. We said goodbye. They sedated him and put him to sleep.

People insulted us online for having created false hope. I had to explain the reasons why I hadn’t told the truth to my kids, to ask for respect for our pain, to leave them alone. I went ahead and blocked the people who abused us. I didn’t waste time on arguing.

I need to get away from this for a while. To sleep, to rest. I’m not well. For weeks, I’ve woken with a jump at two in the morning because the alarms are sounding and we have to run to the rooftop terrace. Twice I’ve just slept for one hour. My body and my mind need peace, tranquility, distance, to leave Caracas.

Living here has been no life since April 19. Something happens every night. I close my eyes and listen to the sirens, the pot-banging, the gunfire, the tanks, the gates they pull down, people shouting. On April 24 they brought our gate down. That was the first sign they wanted to come in. It isn’t easy to get over that.
Everything is destroyed in my apartment block. My sister-in-law is in danger, the dogs at Los Verdes are in danger. We’re all in danger.

Mariana Hernáiz, 52, pre-school assistant

MORE Testimonies 2017