The Venezuelan government “has only brought hunger, misery and destruction to the country” as a “failed state” — admitted a Venezuelan Supreme Court justice and longtime government loyalist who is now making headlines by his shocking and unprecedented defection to the United States. “I’ve decided to leave Venezuela to disavow the government of Nicolas Maduro,” the former powerful judge, Christian Zerpa, told reporters. “I believe Maduro does not deserve a second chance because the election he supposedly won was not free and competitive.”
Considering such a powerful and high level former regime loyalist has just safely fled to Florida with his family, could gaping fissures now surface within the Caracas government and begin to grow, resulting in more defections to come?
Zerpa told reporters while speaking from Florida on Sunday that he could no longer stomach Venezuela's highest court being a mere appendage of Maduro's ruling inner circle, complaining that since 2015 only handpicked insider loyalists were appointed to the bench. As Maduro is set to enter his second, six-year term in an oath of office ceremony on Thursday, Zerpa cited that "he didn’t want to play a role legitimizing Maduro’s rule when the Supreme Court swears him in," according to the AP.
“We are in the presence of an autocracy that has condemned to death any opposition to this particular vision of power,” Zerpa told a Miami-based news broadcast. Western leaders and international rights organizations have condemned the latest presidential election, noting important opposition leaders and parties were banned, or in some cases boycotted the election knowing they would be pressured or forced out.
Zerpa's defection has been confirmed by Venezuelan officials and official media , which have started an apparent smear campaign claiming the supreme court justice was facing multiple sexual harassment charges by women he worked with. He now says he's ready to work with US investigators into corruption and human rights inquiries in Venezuela, even after being under sanction by Canada, but not yet by the United States.
In early media statements made after fleeing his home country, Zerpa described abuses ranging from receiving directives from first lady Cilia Flores on how to rule in cases that are politically connected, to finding legal means and creating loopholes in order to block opposition representatives from taking key swing vote seats in Congress.
One bombshell confession made by Zerpa related to his role on the court, involves his personally taking steps to ensure Maduro maintained total control of Venezuelan congress. The AP report describes this as follows:
As a newly installed justice, he recounted being summoned to the court and told to sign off on a key ruling without first reviewing its details. It disqualified three elected representatives of Amazonas state from taking their seats in congress following the opposition’s sweep of legislative elections in 2015.
The outcome prevented the opposition from amassing a two-third super majority that would have severely curtailed Maduro’s power.
He further related he had flee because he would be jailed for coming forward, and is now apologizing to the public for "propping up" the Maduro government.
He apologized for propping up Maduro’s government, saying that he feared being jailed as a dissident where his life would be put at risk.
Meanwhile, other dissenters have recently fled the country amidst a collapsed economy, runaway inflation, and an extreme food and medicine shortage after two decades of socialist rule. One such opposition lawmaker, Julio Borges, who previously fled the country fearing for his life, urged Latin American leaders on Monday to intensify pressure on Maduro, saying, “The inhuman arrogance of this dictatorship led by Nicolas Maduro personally challenges the heads of state of the region.”
He added further in a blistering critique of Maduro personally: “It’s not fair that a whole country should perish to satisfy one man’s lust for power.”
Indeed the situation continues to be dire as the socialist country suffers from a perfect storm of starvation, disease, a lack of healthcare and extreme violence, with tragic reports of children dying from hepatitis and malaria.
"There is a human catastrophe in Venezuela. There is a resurgence of illnesses that were eradicated decades ago. Hundreds have died from measles and diphtheria. Last year, more than 400,000 Venezuelans presented malaria symptoms. Up to now, there are over 10,000 sick people from tuberculosis," said Caracas mayor and former political prisoner Antonio Ledezma, who founded the opposition party, Fearless People's Alliance. He added provocatively of the dire medicine and healthcare situation amidst a collapsed system: "People have been doomed to death. More than 55,000 cancer patients don’t have access to chemotherapy. Every three hours a woman dies due to breast cancer."
As the country continues its downward spiral, certainly to be exacerbated by at least another six years of Maduro's failed policies, Zerpa's high level defection is likely the start of more to come.