A Venezuelan Supreme Court justice who was a strong supporter of the socialist regime there defected to the United States with his family over the weekend, claiming to object to President Nicolas Maduro’s upcoming second term in office.
“We are in the presence of an autocracy that has condemned to death anyone who opposes this particular vision of power,” Christian Zerpa told Miami-based broadcaster EVTV over the weekend, adding the ailing country’s high court has merely become an extension of Maduro’s close-knit judiciary circle.
Several members of the high court were appointed in 2015, around the same time Venezuela’s economic and social crisis began its downward spiral. Over the past three years, the once prosperous oil-rich nation has been gripped by unfathomable levels of hyperinflation, starvation and dire poverty – prompting more than three million to flee to neighboring nations.
Maduro is slated this week to take the oath in front of the Supreme Court and begin another six-year term, despite protests from most of the international community – including the U.S. – which believes that last year’s elections were a farce. So come Thursday, the U.S. will be among other countries who do not recognize the Venezuelan government’s authority.
Zerpa, who is one of several Venezuelans under sanction by the Canadian government, said he left because he no longer wanted to be part of legitimizing Maduro’s rule, and is now “willing to collaborate with U.S officials investigating corruption and human rights abuses.”
In response to his defection, the court said Zerpa was fleeing accusations of sexual harassment.
Despite the mass migration crisis of those leaving Venezuela in desperation for food, work, and medical supplies, the Maduro regime blames the United States and disgruntled opposition members for trying to create an “economic war,” but denies that large-scale catastrophe is engulfing the country.