SANTIAGO – Four of the five Venezuelan judges granted political asylum by Chile arrived on Thursday in Santiago, where they were welcomed by Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz.
“Chile, as its national anthem says, is a haven against oppression. We hope that your stay will be pleasant,” Muñoz said during the welcoming ceremony.
Judges Beatriz Ruiz Marin, Zuleima Del Valle Gonzalez, Elenis Rodriguez Martinez and Jose Fernando Nuñez Sifontes made the trip on Thursday, while the fifth judge, Luis Manuel Marcano Salazar, was delayed due to logistical reasons and is expected to travel to Chile in the next few hours, the foreign minister said.
The five are among the 33 justices named by Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly to the Supreme Court.
In August, the judges went to the Chilean Embassy in Caracas, where they asked for protection from alleged “political persecution” by President Nicolas Maduro’s administration.
The National Assembly had named 33 justices to replace a similar number hurriedly appointed by the previous legislature before the pro-government party lost its majority.
The judges left the Chilean ambassador’s residence in Caracas on Oct. 9 and headed to Colombia, where they met with Chilean consular personnel.
Three of the judges traveled to the US before the group made its way to Chile.
“They forced us to leave our beloved homeland of Venezuela, but another nation takes us in today, protects our freedom, because that is a fundamental human right,” said Judge Elenis Rodriguez, speaking for the group.
The judges will be provided with housing for as long as needed because their bank accounts were frozen by the Maduro administration, Muñoz said.
Chile is granting the judges political asylum for two years and will provide them with identification cards.
Chile is one of the signatories of the Declaration of Lima, which condemns the violence and breakdown of democracy in Venezuela.