Tribunal Supremo de Jusitica (Supreme Court, TSJ) judge Christian Zerpa has defected from Venezuela and is now in the United States, several media outlets have reported. Zerpa is believed to have fled Venezuela yesterday.
According to El Nacional, Zerpa escaped with his daughter and his wife, and said that there are other TSJ judges who are “discontent” with the current political situation in Venezuela, hinting at the possibility of future defections.
In Venezuela, the TSJ is divided into six “chambers”, each of which has power over one field of law. Zerpa was the chief judge of the electoral chamber, which decided on matters related to electoral law. Zerpa was appointed to that position in 2015 by the regime. From 2010-2015, he served as legislator at the National Assembly for the ruling PSUV party.
Arriving in Miami, Zerpa gave an interview to a local media outlet called El Venezolano TV (EVTV), during which he said that he was hand-picked by Maduro to head the court’s electoral chamber “to guarantee… decisions favourable to the government”, and that he was considered to be “a loyal man” by the regime.
Zerpa also told EVTV that he first found out that he was going to become president of the TSJ’s electoral chamber during a phone call from first lady Cilia Flores, who told him that he was being placed in the position “on orders from [Maduro]”.
Zerpa explained that the reason why he defected is that he dos not want to participate in Maduro’s inauguration on January 10. While the president is typically sworn-in to his or her term by the National Assembly, the PSUV confirmed yesterday that Maduro would be sworn in this year by the TSJ, since the National Assembly is controlled by the opposition.
The defection marks the second such move from a high profile member of the PSUV since 2017, when attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz escaped the country.
TSJ Claims Zerpa Fled Sexual Assault Investigation
TSJ chief judge Maikel Moreno posted a message on his Facebook account today claiming that the real reason Zerpa fled Venezuela is because he was under investigation for sexual assault.
… ex-judge [sic] Christian Tyrone Zerpa has been under investigation since November 23 2018, the date on which his file was submitted to the Moral Republican Council [a body that oversees government] due to the many complaints that female staff in his office had made against him, due to unbecoming and immoral conduct to the detriment of a group of women who worked in his office, many of whom came forward with their accusations or should have been moved to other parts of the institution [sic], in light of his abhorrent conduct, which can only be looked down upon and rejected by society.
The statement does not explain why news of the alleged investigation against Zerpa was kept secret until now, or why he was allowed to continue in his role as a judge given the serious nature of the allegations.
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