A second Venezuelan judge in the last fourteen months had fled the country, further exposing the Maduro regime’s efforts to exert total control over the state’s judiciary. Christian Zerpa, a former party loyalist who was recently appointed to the Venezuelan Supreme Court, surfaced in Florida after his defection and gave a taste of the regime’s interference with the judicial process.
Zerpa surfaced publicly in Miami on Sunday, describing how he received directions from the influential first lady Cilia Flores on how to rule in politically sensitive cases.
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 key ruling cemented Maduro’s power, preventing the opposition from amassing a two-third super majority that would have severely curtailed Maduro’s power.
Zerpa apologized for propping up Maduro’s government as long as he did, saying that he feared being jailed as a dissident where his life would be put at risk.
“I will not be able to return to Venezuela,” Zerpa said. “I am a dead man.”