Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro efended his government’s legitimacy Sunday as his bid for a second six-year erm has come under growing fire internationally and by the country’s opposition-controlled National Assembly.
But in another sign of turmoil around Maduro, who is to be sworn in Thursday, a Supreme Court judge and former ally appeared on US television to denounce last year’s election, having fled the country.
“I have decided to leave Venezuela … to disavow the government ofNicolas Maduro,” Christian Zerpa, who sat on a panel that deals withelectoral issues, told EVTV Miami.
“It was not a free election, it was not a competitive election,” he saidof last year’s vote, going on to accuse Maduro of manipulating the court.
News of the Zerpa’s defection came a day after the opposition-controlled National Assembly declared Maduro’s presidency to be illegitimate and called for a transitional government to organize democratic elections.
Responding on Twitter, Maduro declared: “Legitimacy has been given us bythe people with their vote. To those who hope to break our will, make nomistake. Venezuela will be respected!”
Maduro was re-elected May 20 in presidential elections called by a regime-backed Constituent Assembly and boycotted by the opposition, many of whose best-known leaders were under house arrest or barred from running.
The United States, the European Union and a grouping of countries from theWestern Hemisphere called the Lima Group have refused to recognize theelection.
On Friday, Canada and 12 other Lima Group countries joined in calling for Maduro to step down and open the way for a transitional government formed by leaders of the National Assembly. The US State Department issued a statement Saturday saying the United States stands with the National Assembly as “the only legitimate and last remaining democratically elected institution that truly represents the will of the Venezuelan people.”
On Sunday, the Venezuelan foreign ministry accused Washington ofattempting “to consummate a coup d’etat … in promoting the repudiation oflegitimate and democratic institutions.”