Ex-Venezuelan Supreme Court justice attacks judicial ‘manipulation’

MIAMI,  (Reuters) – A Venezuelan Supreme Court judge who was removed from his post last month for assisting a drug trafficker has accused his former government bosses of systematic manipulation of the courts, including meddling in drug cases.

Eladio Aponte fled Venezuela two weeks ago and sought refuge in Costa Rica, where he was in contact with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to local officials.

“It’s very corrupt at every single level. There’s a lot of manipulation,” Aponte said in an interview with a Miami-based Spanish-language TV station, Soi TV, broadcast on Wednesday.

The interview was recorded before Aponte was flown out of Costa Rica on Tuesday aboard a U.S. government plane, the TV station said. It did not say where the plane took him.

DEA representatives in Miami and Washington declined to comment.

If Aponte’s allegations are true, Washington would likely use any evidence of corruption to discredit the government of President Hugo Chavez, while also raising the prospect of charges being brought against senior Venezuelan officials.

Should Aponte agree to cooperate with the DEA, he will be the highest-ranking former Venezuelan official to testify about corruption in Chavez’s socialist government.

The United States accuses the Venezuelan government of turning a blind eye to drug trafficking and appointing corrupt military officers to top positions.

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