CARACAS – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday that he considers the 33 judges named last week by the opposition-controlled Parliament to replace the current government-supporting justices of the Supreme Court to be “illegitimate,” adding that they will be arrested “one by one” and that their assets and bank accounts will be frozen.
“These people whom they named, (are) usurpers. They will all be arrested, one by one, one after another. They will all be made prisoners and the assets of all of them will be frozen, their bank accounts and everything, and nobody is going to defend them,” said Maduro on his weekly public television program.
One of those judges, Angel Zerpa, was arrested on Saturday by agents of Venezuela’s Sebin intelligence agency in an operation called “state terrorism” by Parliament, which has accused the high court justices of being the Maduro government’s judicial arm.
“Now they’re committing the enormous error of creating a parallel state, which is a wicked, stupid, childish thing,” said Maduro, alluding to the judicial nominations made by Parliament.
The Venezuelan opposition on Friday approved the new magistrates a few weeks after Attorney General Luisa Ortega unsuccessfully challenged the naming of the 33 justices who currently occupy the high court for alleged irregularities in their selection.
The current justices were designated in 2015 by the then-government-supporting Parliament in a process lasting just a few days right after the opposition’s legislative election victory but before the new majority took over the legislature.
By attempting to replace those magistrates, opposition lawmakers say they are seeking to reestablish “constitutionality” in Venezuela, which has been compromised – according to government detractors – by several Supreme Court rulings punishing Parliament after declaring it to be in “contempt.”