SANTIAGO – This week, Chile welcomed four Venezuelan judges who oppose the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
“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,” Beatriz Ruiz, one of the four judges, told reporters at the Santiago airport Thursday.
Three others are Elenis Rodriguez, Jose Nunez, and Zuleima Gonzalez. A fifth judge is expected to join them later.
The judges appointed by Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly took refuge in the Chilean Embassy in Caracas in August and were later granted asylum.
They are among 33 judges sworn in July 21 by the National Assembly in defiance of Venezuela’s government-stacked Supreme Court. Venezuela’s highest court declared the appointments unconstitutional and said the judges could be arrested for illegally usurping power and betraying the nation if they took their new posts.
Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz received the judges in Chile’s capital Thursday.
Munoz said the judges left Venezuela on their own by crossing the border with Colombia after Venezuela’s government failed to provide them safe conduct.
Venezuela has been in turmoil for months since opposition-led protests against the Maduro government over severe food, medicine, and gasoline shortages turned violent.
Maduro blames his country’s woes on the United States, accusing it of backing the opposition.