A former ally of Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduro, Supreme court Judge Christian Zerpa has fled to the U.S. citing threats to his life under the country’s ruler’s second term in office. “I’ve decided to leave Venezuela to disavow the government of Nicolas Maduro,” Zerpa said in an interview with EVTV, which is broadcast over cable and the internet.
Zerpa, after his defection has also accused Maduro of ‘manipulating’ the affairs of the Supreme Court and going to the extent of saying that major decisions made by the Supreme court had been dictated by the Maduro government.
Zerpa’s defection is remarkable as he had served as a crucial ally for Nicholas Maduro in the Supreme Court. His key legal opinion in 2016 that justified the president's decision to strip congress of its powers had turned the fate of Venezuelans as Maduro has centralised power.
Zerpa has also accused the Venezuelan president of managing a sham election. The judge said he had not called out the president on the manipulated elections as he was preparing to flee the country. Zerpa said in his interview, “I believe (Maduro) does not deserve a second chance because the election he supposedly won was not free and competitive.”
The Venezuelan Supreme Court confirmed in a statement that Zerpa had fled, referring to him as a former magistrate. The Court also said that it had opened an investigation regarding Zerpa in November over accusations of sexual harassment by women in his office.
Zerpa is just one among millions who have fled Venezuela during Maduro’s rule as President. Nicholas Manduro called for snap elections in May 2018 to consolidate his hold on Venezuela but his win has been slammed by opposition parties at home and other governments abroad.
Fourteen countries have recalled their ambassadors from Caracas in protest after the election result, and the US imposed fresh economic sanctions on the country. On Friday, Canada and 12 other countries from South and Central America joined in calling for Maduro to step down and open the way for a transitional government formed by leaders of the National Assembly.