Supreme court judge flees Venezuela in snub to Maduro

Venezuela

Venezuela

A former Venezuelan Supreme Court justice has fled to the USA and denounced the results of an election a year ago that will keep President Nicolas Maduro in power.

Zerpa also reportedly told a Miami-based broadcaster in an interview Sunday that he is prepared to cooperate with USA prosecutors investigating corruption and human rights violations in the South American country.

"I've chose to leave Venezuela to disavow the government of Nicolás Maduro", Zerpa said. Mr Maduro is due to be inaugurated on Thursday.

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 global community - including the US - which believes that last year's elections were a farce.

The defection comes amid growing worldwide pressure on Maduro over his new term, which he won in a widely boycotted 2018 election.

The high-ranking defection comes a day after Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly called Maduro's election in a vote last May illegitimate and declared its intention to create a transitional body to prepare for democratic elections.

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He said he did not criticize the election at the time because he wanted to ensure the safe exit of his family from Venezuela, which has been plunged into economic and social misery under Maduro.

Christian Zerpa, a longtime ally of the socialist regime, said in an interview with Florida radio station EVTV that last year's election "was not free and competitive", despite having repeatedly ruled in favor of Maduro's efforts to transform the country into a Cuba-style dictatorship.

Zerpa is the second Supreme Court justice to flee Venezuela in recent years.

Zerpa's words echoed those of former Justice Eladio Aponte, who fled to the USA in 2012 and said the government of Venezuela's late socialist leader Hugo Chavez - Maduro's predecessor - had systematically manipulated court affairs.

Most Latin American governments, along with the European Union, the United States and Canada, have indicated that they will not consider him the legitimate president of Venezuela...

"To those who hope to break our will, make no mistake Venezuela will be respected!" he said.

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