Varela’s turning point towards Venezuela

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After years of maintaining a neutral position on the Venezuelan situation, Juan Carlos Varela’s government has toughened his speech on the crisis that affects that country. The international pressure and the intensification of the violence of Maduro’s government pushed for a turning point.

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said that the country will grant political asylum "to anyone who defends democracy in Venezuela" and is "persecuted."

"The government, in defense of democracy, will give political asylum to anyone who defends democracy in Venezuela or elsewhere in the world," the president said in statements to the media.

Panama granted international protection to two Venezuelan magistrates who came to the ambassador's residence in Caracas due to arrest threat.

The asylee are deputy magistrate and lawyer of the Attorney General of Venezuela, Gustavo Sosa Izaguirre, and the deputy magistrate of the Political-Administrative Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, Manuel Antonio Espinoza Melet.

"Panama is a country that respects democracy, it is a country at the service of the world and we will follow these principles in our country and in all our embassies," said Varela.

When asked about the possibility that this announcement affects the relations between both countries, the Panamanian president said that "we have to do the right thing and, if that changes or not, everyone makes their decision."

At the beginning of the Venezuelan crisis, the Government of Panama was distant although supporting the dialogue and opted for understanding, but in recent days has toughened its speech and expressed its "total rejection" of the elections held last Sunday for an Assembly Constituent in Venezuela, whose result is rejected.

Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel De Saint Malo said the Central American country does not dismiss withdrawing its ambassador in Caracas.

On July 21, the Venezuelan opposition approved the designation of new judges, weeks after prosecutor-general Luisa Ortega unsuccessfully challenged the appointments of 33 judges who now have the Supreme's seats for "alleged irregularities" in their process of choice.

These acting judges were appointed by Parliament, when it was Chavista majority, in a speedy process completed in a few days, just after the opposition victory in the legislative elections of 2015.

The Supreme Court did not recognize the appointments and warned the 33 magistrates who were comitting "treason crimes."

In new actions, Panama reiterated its rejection position. Panama's Foreign Minister and Vice-President Isabel De Saint Malo said today that the Venezuelan government "must give up attacks on its population and illegitimate and dictatorial acts" after Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela accused the Venezuelan authorities of being cowards.

"Requesting mediation from the Holy See, then imposing a constituent, confronting the people and attacking the Church is an act of cowardice," Varela wrote in the social network.

De Saint Malo also commented in her Twitter account and rejected the last decisions of the Government of Nicolás Maduro and the recently established National Constituent Assembly, which is made up only by government officials and took control of the powers of the State.

Sidney Sittón, defense lawyer representing Panamanian former president Ricardo Martinelli, said Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela "has behaved like an ally" of his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolás Maduro.

"In the last few weeks he has changed his mind ... and that is because the drastic actions taken by the United States against Nicolás Maduro and his immediate surroundings," he said today in an exclusive interview with PanamaToday.com.

He highlighted that Varela since the beginning of his administration "supported the Chavista government of Maduro and imposed similar measures in Panama, such as price control, pronouncements, among others. He has been accomplice of the situation in Venezuela".

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