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Venezuela Supreme Court judge Christian Zerpa flees to US

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Written by Maritime First

…As Afghanistan gold mine collapse in Badakhshan kills 30***

Venezuela Supreme Court judge Christian Zerpa has fled to the US to protest over President Nicolás Maduro’s second term in office.

Last year’s election “was not free and competitive”, the former Maduro loyalist told a Florida radio station.

And he accused President Maduro of systematically manipulating the affairs of the Supreme Court.

In response, the court said Mr Zerpa was fleeing allegations of sexual harassment.

Opposition parties boycotted the 2018 vote, calling it a sham.

Mr Zerpa had been a crucial ally for Mr Maduro on the court, writing a key legal opinion in 2016 justifying the president’s decision to strip congress of its powers.

His ruling Socialist party had lost control of the legislature to the opposition in a landslide vote earlier that year.

But in an interview with Miami broadcaster EVTV on Sunday, Mr Zerpa called the Supreme Court “an appendage of the executive branch”, saying the president would tell justices how to rule on certain cases.

He said he had not publicly criticised the 2018 election result to ensure he and his family could safely flee to the US.

Mr Maduro is due to be formally inaugurated to a second term on 10 January.

Fourteen countries recalled their ambassadors from Caracas in protest at the result of the vote last May, and the US imposed fresh economic sanctions on the country.

Before the election even took place, the United States, Canada, the European Union and a dozen Latin American countries said they would not recognise the results.

The opposition had boycotted the poll while the government barred many others from taking part.

Millions of people have fled Venezuela in recent years amid skyrocketing inflation and chronic food shortages.

In the meantime, at least 30 people have been killed in the collapse of a gold mine in north-eastern Afghanistan, officials say.

The collapse occurred in the Kohistan district of Badakhshan province.

Villagers had reportedly dug a 60m (220ft) deep but makeshift shaft in a river bed to hunt for gold and were caught in its collapse.

Afghanistan has vast resources of minerals but many of the mines are old and poorly maintained, creating severe safety issues.

Villagers were reportedly using an excavator at the site when the mine collapsed.

At least seven other people were injured, officials say.

Kohistan district chief Rostam Raghi told the BBC’s Afghan service: “Locals rushed to the scene and managed to rescue only 13 workers. Dozens of others, including some children, died.”

Nik Mohammad Nazari, spokesman for the provincial governor, told Agence France-Presse: “The villagers have been involved in this business for decades with no government control over them.

“We have sent a rescue team to the area, but villagers have already started removing bodies from the site.”

A spokesman for the National Disaster Management Authority told AFP the families of the dead would receive 50,000 afghanis ($660; £520).

Afghanistan’s vast resources remain largely untapped due to the conflict with the Taliban.

The conflict has seen the rise in illegal mining both by villagers and Taliban fighters who use it as a key source of revenue.

BBC

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Maritime First