CARACAS, VENEZUELA —
Relatives of jailed Venezuelan Supreme Court Justice Ángel Zerpa are demanding his transfer to a medical center for treatment.
Zerpa has been on a hunger strike since his arrest and detention July 22 here in the capital. That came a day after the opposition-led National Assembly appointed Zerpa and 32 others to replace justices believed to be doing the bidding of President Nicolás Maduro’s administration instead of acting independently.
The existing high court has accused the new appointees of illegally seizing power. Zerpa has been detained at the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service’s headquarters, accused of treason. Other National Assembly appointees have fled the country or sought asylum with foreign embassies in Caracas.
At a news conference Thursday at the Federal Legislative Palace, Mariela Zerpa said her brother was striking to protest his detention and to press for a medical evaluation.
The 56-year-old lawyer has lost about 15 kilos, Mariela Zerpa said, noting he has several medical problems, including hypertension and chronic gastritis. She added that his skin color has yellowed, and that "we do not know if he has liver problems or kidney problems arising from the hunger strike."
Yvette Lugo, president of the Caracas Bar Association and a member of Zerpa’s defense team, said the Maduro administration had no grounds to detain him and would be held accountable “for what may happen."
Zerpa "is a lawyer who has not committed any crime to be deprived of liberty," Lugo said at the news conference. She added that "all his constitutional guarantees have been violated."
The National Assembly itself is being challenged. Venezuela’s controversial constituent assembly – whose 545 members took office in early August and are charged with rewriting the constitution – last week decreed that it had legislative powers superseding the National Assembly.
The constituent assembly is not recognized as legitimate by the United States and at least 13 other countries in the hemisphere, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.