5 Venezuelan Judges Given Refuge in Chile

Four opposition-appointed Venezuelan judges have found refuge in Chile to avoid possible prison time.

“All I can say today is that we were forced to abandon our beloved home of Venezuela, but that another nation has embraced us and will protect our freedom,” judge Beatriz Ruiz told reporters at the Santiago airport Thursday.

Another judge who has been granted asylum in Chile is reportedly on the way.

33 opposition judges

They are among 33 judges appointed by the opposition-led Venezuelan National Assembly in July to challenge the supreme court. The opposition says the court is stacked in favor of what they call President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist dictatorship.

Both the Maduro government and Venezuela’s top court called the judicial appointments illegal and unconstitutional and threatened all 33 judges with jail.

Five of them sought refuge in the Chilean embassy. It is unclear what has happened to the others. Some reports say some of them fled to Colombia and the United States.

Venezuela has been in turmoil for months since opposition-led protests against the Maduro government over severe food, medicine, and gasoline shortages turned violent.

US, others reject special legislative body

A 545-member special legislative body is rewriting the constitution despite being elected in a vote the opposition calls a sham. The United States and nearly every other Latin America country has not recognized the superbody.

Venezuela’s Latin neighbors are also condemning this week’s Venezuelan election in which Socialist candidates won 18 of 23 governorships.

Maduro blames his country’s woes on the United States, accusing it of backing the opposition.

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