On March 27th, 2001, 18-year-old Linda Loaiza was kidnapped in Caracas, Venezuela by a man named Luis Alberto Carrera Almoina. Loaiza’s younger sister, Ana Secilia, immediately reported her sister’s disappearance, but Venezuelan authorities refused to investigate. After enduring nearly four months of repeated sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her kidnapper, Loaiza finally managed to escape.
Throughout those four months, Almoina brutally beat and raped Loaiza every day. She’d been starved, her jaw and nose had been broken, one of her nipples had been ripped off of her body, both of her ears had been destroyed, and her vagina had been badly damaged.
Loaiza may have been free, but her struggle was far from over. Written in Caracas Chronicles in a detailed piece by Luisa Kislinger, Loaiza had been on the verge of death when she escaped and was rescued in July and the injuries she’d sustained resulted her being hospitalized for a year. She had to undergo more than 12 operations to repair the physical damage.
No operation could repair the psychological scarring that the experience had caused; for Loaiza, only justice could begin to heal her wounds. She may have been freed from captivity, but due to the sexist and classist nature of the Venezuelan justice system, she continued to struggle.
Almoina came from an influential Venezuelan family while Loaiza’s parents are Colombian farmers, an unfortunate power dynamic that certainly worked in the guilty man’s favor. 59 judges declined to hear her case and the hearings were deferred 38 times before finally being brought to trial in 2004 where Almoina was acquitted of all charges.
Loaiza appealed and the case was retried. Almonia was eventually convicted of “grievous bodily injuries and illegitimate deprivation of liberty,” with the charges for rape and attempted murder dropped. Almonia was sentenced to six years and one month in prison in 2006. However, since he had been in prison throughout the trial, he was only required to serve the remainder of his sentence and was released in 2007.
After more than 16 years of fighting, Loaiza, who is now a lawyer and human rights defender, had her story heard on February 6th by the Inter-American Court, the first Venezuelan gender-related violence case to do so.
“My case reached the Inter-American Court before this decision was taken,” Loaiza wrote in an op-ed for Aljazeera. “Thanks to this and to my own struggles, as well as by dozens of Venezuelan women who saw the court as a beacon of hope, this trial will be held in the continent’s largest human rights tribunal.”
“I’m not looking for revenge, but justice, and I hope that myself and other women will be compensated,” she said.
Human rights advocates say that Venezuela has yet to create a climate of justice for these sorts of situations. A ruling in Loaiza’s favor could result in structural changes in the legal system as well as adequate prevention and proper punishment of perpetrators of violence against women in Venezuela.
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