Venezuelan judges flee to Colombia as country’s crisis grows
As Venezuelan strongman Maduro tightens his grip on the beleaguered country, his government has attempted to arrest opposition figures and politicians who are deemed a threat to the regime. After Venezuela’s congress was blocked in their attempt to name new judges to the country’s Supreme Court, the 33 appointees were subsequently charged with various offenses by the socialist regime and orders have been issued for their arrest. Left with few options, most have fled the country, though some have been arrested, and others are still missing.
Five of the judges, including Pedro José Toconis, are currently in Colombia, while three more have been captured and six are at the Venezuelan embassy in Chile. The others remain missing.
“All of us who are in Colombia have our passport stamped as tourists, and not as refugees. We’ve had meetings with the Department of Protection of the Citizens’ Rights here in Colombia, and some institutions have opened their doors with work offers until the crisis is resolved”, Toconis said.
He added that the arrests were planned for some time. Venezuela’s intelligence organization, SEBIN, was monitoring activity of the judges over the past month, arriving at the homes of the judges or their friends and family in order to keep tabs on their locations.
“All other magistrates have been treated same. It is difficult for us, especially as we are not guilty of any offense. The government has also frozen my bank accounts without a court order”, Toconis said.
Venezuela is in the midst of an economic and social crisis, as the country has seized private businesses and violently repressed democratic institutions and demonstrations.