The Venezuelan government began a new offensive against the opposition movement that seeks to complete a Coup d’Etat, and which last Friday appointed a parallel Supreme Court to challenge the regime of Nicolas Maduro.
The first victim of Maduro’s hunt for coup plotters was Professor Angel Zerpa, one of the 33 magistrates appointed to occupy a position in the alternative Supreme Court.
Shortly thereafter, the Venezuelan president confirmed his intentions and assured that he will apprehend, “one by one”, all the jurists appointed by the opposition and that their assets and bank accounts will be seized.
Opposition leaders like Henrique Capriles denounced an operation against the entire new Supreme Court.
The Democratic Unity parties announced on Wednesday a 48-hour general strike against the constituent process led by Maduro.
Lawyer Angel Zerpa was arrested on Saturday afternoon in Caracas by agents of Maduro’s political police. The Attorney General’s Office confirmed the arrest a few hours later.
Officials of the Public Prosecutor’s Office went to the headquarters of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) to check the detainee’s condition, but were not allowed access.
Zerpa, a professor of law at the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) and Universidad Católica Andreas Bello, both in Caracas, is one of the 33 jurists that the Venezuelan Parliament – controlled by an opposition majority since January 2016, and that was declared “in contempt” by the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) last October – designated on Friday these members of the new parallel Supreme Court as a shadow organization.
The measure challenged the government-controlled State apparatus, which includes powers such as judicial and electoral organs, which the government has allegedly discreetly activated to intimidate or subdue its adversaries.
Zerpa’s arrest appeared to confirm the warning issued by the Constitutional arm of the Supreme Court on Friday, which warned that the inauguration of new magistrates was “extemporaneous” and irritating. He also advised jurists that they could be guilty of various crimes, including misdemeanors.
Some of the newly appointed magistrates, expressed to reporters – from clandestinity – the fear of being the target of arrests.
Meanwhile, opposition leader and two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, governor of the state of Miranda, said it was the start of a raid:
“The Sebin was ordered to find and detain the newly appointed TSJ magistrates! And the detainees are sent to the Military Prosecutor’s Office!”
The parties of the opposition Democratic Bureau of Unity (DBU) issued a statement rejecting the arrest:
”This action by the Sebin, blindly endorsed by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, is a continuation of the coup against the National Assembly and the Constitution and the organs that are servile subordinate to him,” the opposition denounced.
No new incarcerations of magistrates were reported in the course of Sunday, but Maduro confirmed during his weekly public television program the intentions of the regime.
“These people who have been appointed as the judges of the parallel tribunal, are usurpers who are going around, are going to go to prison, one by one, one after another. Accounts and everything, and nobody will defend them,” said the president who is also ready to dialogue with the opposition and “reach an agreement of peace, national coexistence and a cycle of dialogue and talks unique and exclusively in the interests of Venezuela“.
While warnings for the possibility of further arrests of judges are heightened, the opposition also fears that another objective of the security forces is the prosecution of another opposition leader.
The arrested lawyer is a professor at the National School of Prosecutors; attorney general, Luisa Ortega Díaz.
Last March, Ortega Diaz declared unconstitutional a decision of the Supreme Court that granted Maduro legislative powers.
And then, during the protests that this decision originated, the prosecutor attributed to the military and police bodies, systematic violations of human rights in the demonstrations, which supposedly put her under the government’s magnifying lens.