All because of a broken fingernail

(A reader sends us this translation of an interview with Marvinia Jiménez that appeared in El Carabobeño, a Valencia daily, a few weeks ago. Marvinia was brutally attacked...

(A reader sends us this translation of an interview with Marvinia Jiménez that appeared in El Carabobeño, a Valencia daily, a few weeks ago. Marvinia was brutally attacked at a protest, and is now charged with assaulting an officer)

From El Carabobeño:

Marvinia Jimenez, who was born with low mobility in half her body, has become living proof that human rights in Venezuela are not respected. After being brutally attacked by an angry National Guardswoman, as has been known throughout the world, she stands accused of resisting authority, of injury to public officials, and other crimes by a government that uses repression as a lifesaver to try to survive. Marvinia’s life unfolds every day between Sector 8 in La Isabelica (a working class Valencia suburb), where she has a sewing business, and sector 3, where she leaves a son with her aunt. Her son is aged 7, and his name is Lliw, which is Will, the child´s father’s name, spelled backwards. The child suffers from asthma .

On Monday February 24th, when she was going to her shop, she met two platoons of the National Guard. Neighbors had protested by banging pots and pans overnight, and the situation had become tense due to nearby detonations. “I have attended the past events because I am also a victim of this situation of crime and shortages that the country has.”

The atmosphere was so tense I decided to record it with my phone, a humble “vergatario” (ZTE 366 locally assembled cell phone that Hugo Chávez used to peddle) that my aunt lent me, because my Blackberry was stolen, says the brown skinned victim. She is wearing a collar to relieve the pain.

MarviniaWhen she was at home, she completed a new dress and heard explosions from the sides of  La Olla, near the La Espiga de Oro bakery, so she decided to return to sector 3 with her family. On the way she met a light-armored National Guard vehicle throwing tear gas. She again recorded it with the phone, while from the military vehicle they shouted at her: “escuálida, get a job, go home and make arepas, find a husband”” She also heard compliments like “negra linda, cojita preciosa (cute black woman, precious gimp).”

Suddenly, the military vehicle sped up and headed to the La Espiga De Oro Bakery, where it stopped after passing over the barricades. As if she were an experienced reporter, she followed the vehicle and recorded the details. It was 9 am, and strong detonations were heard coming from the Central Madeirense (a supermarket). When she arrived, she found that the so-called People’s Guard was throwing stones at buildings whose inhabitants were throwing bottles and rocks at them.

She was still in the middle of the avenue, recording how the guards shot and threw tear gas on civilians, when she saw three of them placing their rifles on the back of the harness they carried, and withdrew small pistols.

“I shouted: do not kill your own people. One of the guards tried to take away the phone but I threw it far away and he could not find it. At that time a woman pounced on me, one that I believed was a gorilla (a gorilla, in Venezuelan parlance, is a particularly brute member of the police force). While she beat me, the guards threw my arms backward and handcuffed me. The chick in in her madness kept beating me. I think she broke a nail when she touched the ground and that made her furious. She removed her helmet and started beating me with it. I do not remember how many they were, I thought I was going to faint because since I was born my left side is asleep and I was losing feeling on my hand. I shouted: I am disabled, have mercy on me. She did not hear me. She scratched me, spat me, kicked me, twisted my neck, bit me and pulled my hair. I only heard her say : “Damn you, you blew my fingernail that was so beautiful.” She hit me with the helmet on my left cheek and on the forehead. I have bruises on my face, inflammations everywhere, and bumps on the head. This is documented since it was recorded from the bloques (buildings) . What I remember from that time was that a guard shouted ‘blond (catira), hit that dirty squalid lady hard!’. Another shouted: ‘leave her alone, it is being recorded.’ That’s where the chick showcased and grabbed me by the hair as seen in the photos that have been around the world.”

What happened after the beating ?

“I thought they were going to leave me alone. But the worst had not even started. They handcuffed me and put me in a motorbike, and the woman continued beating me. She said ‘damn, bitch, you blew my pretty nail.’ I ‘m screaming ‘I am Marvinia Jimenez, they are detaining me and I don’t know why.’ The chick covered my mouth, but I did not stop.

I thought they were taking me to the Core 2 Command of the National Guard, but they continued to the Command of the People’s Guard, in front of the Metropolis shopping center. They left me there with three other detainees who were not handcuffed. So I screamed to ask them to remove the cuffs, that a doctor to see me, that I wanted to call my brother Marvin Alejandro Jimenez, a lawyer. No one answered. The same woman who handcuffed me took off my handcuffs, but not before insisting that it had been my fault since I had broken her fingernail that was so beautiful.”

Marvinia says that being in the prison room, she was approached by a stocky guard, of low range, whose name appeared on the shirt pocket he was wearing. ‘If you read you can see that these boots are 48 and I ‘m going to stick it in your face, you filthy stray.’ But nothing happened because other guards were outraged with what they were doing to me.”

At 5pm, Marvinia had not received any type of assistance. In the, evening she was taken to a clinic for some tests. She insisted she wanted a phone to communicate with her family and inform them what was happening, and to call her own doctor.

“Riding in the vehicle with me was a man, Mr. Hector, who was also beaten by National Guardsmen . He was vomiting blood and his shirt was torn. So they put on him a small flannel shirt, one that was way too small, to photograph and register him. After we were examined they sent us to the Police Headquarters of Los Guayos where I slept on the floor.”

Her cellmates, some young girls arrested for drug trafficking, helped her ward off the cold and shared the food they had brought them.

At mid-morning, a man who identified himself as a representative of the Ombudsman showed up. He wanted me to sign a paper stating that I was in perfect health. I refused to sign because I had a massive head pain from the beating I got. ” That’s not my problem, because I’m here to certify that you have nothing,” he said. He went away without my signature.

I spent the second day without hearing from my family and without receiving legal assistance. We slept on the cold ground, covered with a curtain. The next day they took me to the courthouse, and I got to see my family from afar. Then I was moved to the Scientific, Criminal, and Forensic Investigation Unit (Cicpc, Venezuela’s Investigative Police), next to Valencia’s Bullring .

Is it true that the accused you of theft at CANTV ?

“When we arrived, I heard from some of the troops that Hector and I were of the CANTV theft case.  I was outraged because I’ve never robbed anyone, but a heavy goat (Venezuelan slang for ‘fat cat’) ordered that I be registered for theft. I refused to be blamed for a crime I did not commit, but I was advised by him to do so because it would serve to show the corruption in these agencies.”

The presence of Marvinia at the Bullring Cicpc was an event, because other detainees recognized her as “the lady who is on YouTube and photos hit by a gorilla from the National Guard.”  That’s when I learned that I am not alone, and that my tragedy is known worldwide. I was let into a room to be interviewed by a commission from Caracas, and I got the medical checkups required by law 48 hours after the brutal assault on me, when the bruises were withdrawing.”

What will you do now?

‘I’m tired of all this. I feel threatened. It turns out that in the Courthouse they accused me of being involved in crimes of resisting arrest, injury to People’s Guard officers, damage to property, and incitement to disobedience.”

“Lawyers are moving. We are being helped because we need to defend fundamental rights. I am in God’s hands because Venezuela is a country where anything is possible. Every time a government official says ‘he must be put in jail’,  that person is detained.

“I feel intimidated because, at some point they will arrive with a warrant to take me to a dungeon to wait for the file they will make up. The Colectivos (armed government paramilitaries) chased me on their bikes from the moment they took me out of the La Viña clinic to my residence in La Isabelica, and I’m afraid they will turn up again.”

Let God forgive

Marvinia Alejandra Jimenez is 36 years old. She was born in Valencia, and studied Graphic Design at Archbishop Talavera Institute. She opted to work in haute couture, specializing in making wedding dresses and party suits. Since she was a girl she suffers from a degenerative disease, which means the right side of her body is more developed than the left side . She limps when walking, something she tries to hide with long skirts and long sleeve blouses. “This defect does not shame me. I’ve worked as a seamstress since I was ten years old, and I have a large and satisfied body of clients. I have never taken advantage to apply for government benefits or privileges. I have noticed that my powers are declining, and so I registered a small company to sell salads, because I’m sure that when I’m old I will not be able to live off being a seamstress.”

Do you forgive your abuser?

“Let God forgive. She must be aware that, for the sake of the National Guard, she should ask for her discharge, since she has dishonored it worldwide. If she is unable to contain her evil, her hysteria because she broke a nail, she will continue to do evil. I want to publicly express my gratitude to El Carabobeño and social networks that were responsible for spreading, in an extraordinary way, the tragedy that I’ve lived. My tragedy is not just mine but all of Venezuela’s, because we are orphans of justice, victims of authorities who lie.”