November 16, 2017
A former Venezuelan judge who says she was forced under threat to sign arrest warrants for President Nicolas Maduro’s political opponents is seeking refugee protection in Canada.
In an exclusive interview with The Globe and Mail, Ralenis Tovar said she and her family fled Venezuela on July 28, claiming refugee status when they landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.
After more than three years of what she described as threats, stalking and a kidnapping attempt by members of the Maduro regime, Ms. Tovar said her fear peaked in June when another judge involved in the sentencing of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was murdered. Ms. Tovar, who claims she was once forced to sign an arrest warrant for Mr. Lopez, knew it was time to leave.
“Nelson Moncada was found murdered and [he] was involved in Leopoldo Lopez’s case too. I felt that it might be the government who, in one way or another, was trying to get rid of people who were involved in that case,” Ms. Tovar said in Spanish through her counsel Victor Korsun, who translated for her.
Ms. Tovar, 47, fled with her 13-year-old daughter and husband. They are currently living in a Toronto hotel until they can move into an apartment in December. In the meantime, they are awaiting a hearing with the Immigration and Refugee Board.
The Caracas-born lawyer left behind friends, family and a 17-year career as a judge in the Venezuelan capital. She says she started to notice the judiciary losing its independence in 2009, but things intensified in 2013 when Mr. Maduro became President.