by Jennifer Barreto-Leyva
Hours after living through every woman’s worst nightmare when she and her family were held at gunpoint, assaulted and robbed, Jennifer, through an email exchange with Latina Lista, graciously relived this horrendous experience. She shares her thoughts, her fears and plans for the future.
I went to my condo’s lobby to say hi to a friend who bought me a dress; she came to pay me. I smelled a strong male perfume (outside my apartment) but I thought it was my neighbor upstairs.
I went down, we said hi, she gave me the money and we said good-bye. Returning, I opened my flat’s door and a guy pointed at me with a gun and said, “If you scream or turn around I’ll kill your family and then I kill you”.
Three of them were there but someone was outside the condo warning them. They had a radio (walkie-talkie) to communicate between each other. They had a very professional style.
I just surrendered to him and closed my eyes and I smelled the same perfume I had previously smelled. It belonged to one of them. So they were there for a long time.
Thanks to the law school and my passion for criminal law — I studied three years Criminology with the best cops in the country back then — they taught me and trained me how to react in a moment like this.
It was exactly 11:30 AM, (February 23) no one heard a thing, NOTHING. The kidnappers pointed a gun at my dad and sister and put them on the floor looking towards a wall. They specifically told us in a violent way that we couldn’t look at their faces.
The guy that was pointing at me, pulled me to the floor and kicked me and placed me right next to my sister, who was next to daddy. While two of them were with mom, forcing her to open the safe and to tell them where the money was. She was so nervous that she started to scream. They slapped her, hit her in the head with the gun and kicked her too.
When mom was screaming they said they would kill her if she didn’t shut up.
After she opened the safe, they tied us separately and then together. There was no way to escape. When we were on the floor tied up, they were pointing at our faces with a lamp to check that we weren’t looking at them. They robbed and kidnapped us for approximately two and a half hours.
I only saw one; he was about 36 years old. Mom saw the three of them. There was someone around his 50s, the one I saw and someone in his 40s. Again with my experience in the (judicial) area, I am 1000000% sure, they were in the military or former cops.
The way this guy took the gun and was standing up are normal only to the military or cops.
They were dressed up, perfect military haircut, all of them perfumed, with manicures and good looks.
They kicked me several times because I was trying to touch my family to let them know I was there, and all I’ve told before they did to mom. They told us literally, “Be thankful, because we are being nice. If we were really bad people we could be raping you right now”.
I will never be able to erase from my memory that scene…my dad saying “Thank you for not raping my wife or my daughters, thank you, thank you.” They sprayed some liquid on us to blur our vision and dry our mouths. We still don’t know what it was.
They took all our life savings — our jewelry (we had jewelry from our ancestors there). They took $15,000 my parents had saved to help me and my sister open an office. They took perfumes, virgin cdÂ´s, some of mom’s purses and a couple of bathing suits. So far, that is all we have counted.
I was very scared. Since I’m a public person that makes me more vulnerable than any other regular citizen. We still think this was totally random, since this condo and neighborhood have been robbed repeatedly for months.
In a scary way, it’s kind of normal to hear stories like mine today in Venezuela. Criminals and delinquents have total support of Chavez. Right now, everything is twisted. This is the Venezuela we have thanks to him.
Yet, we were lucky. Usually when the police go to the crime scene, they take what the criminals couldn’t, polishing off their work so to speak.
These two police officers were kind of decent. They said they found tons of fingerprints and it was pretty easy to find out who they were. It seems there is a gang who has been robbing the area a long time. They know the movements of everybody here, they know every apartment, concierge, doors, etc.
There are rumors that men like these are trained in Cuba. Chavez has changed all the laws to make the police totally useless. We are totally abandoned, in God hands.
There is not such a thing as justice in this country. If you get the miracle to find a decent judge, the criminal’s relatives find the judge, you and your family. They find a way to make you disappear…and this is the light version of the story.
I’ve wanted to leave my country for a long time, but now I’m determined to do it. Nothing could make me change the idea of leaving this nightmare. My family (except my sister) werenÂ´t sure to take that step (with me), but now they are pondering and considering the idea. That makes me glad. I don’t want to go and leave them here by themselves.
We are still in shock and denial. This is the ugliest thing anyone can live (through).
Since I have relatives in Miami I would probably stay there with them.
What would I do for a living? No idea…I’m in one piece and healthy. As long as it is something honest, legal and decent, any work is good for me.
>Learn more about Jennifer:
Jennifer Barreto-Leyva lives in Caracas, Venezuela where when this 5”11 venezolana is not defending the rights of her clients as a lawyer or inspiring people as a motivational speaker, she is an outspoken defender on the rights of plus-size people.
Jennifer is Miss Plump Venezuela and the first Latina who participated and won the Miss Universe for Plus-size title. She is also the first venezolana plus-size model and, consequently, is credited for introducing the plus-size modeling division throughout Latin America.
Since 1999, Jennifer has penned a regular column, Tu Rincon con Jen, for the only online site dedicated to plus size people in Spanish, gordos.com.
Because of her sassy outspokenness and willingness to force the issue that beauty does not lie with a person’s weight, Jennifer has found her message much in demand from South and North America to Europe and Asia.
Jennifer provides constant inspiration for women of all sizes at her blog, Facebook and MySpace pages and says that she always knew that when it came to defending who she was, no one was going to do it for her.
I saw myself different (as a child), not only when it comes to my size but my beauty as well. I’ve always had to deal with people’s cruelty because they think I’m ugly and have no hesitation letting me know that. I had to be strong and mature when no one around was. I’m beautiful because I’ve decided and feel that way, not because everyone else says it is so.