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Former Anti-socialist Defense Minister dies in prison


Raúl Isaías Baduel, retired Army General and former Venezuelan defense minister died from COVID-19 while in prison, where he had been awaiting trial since 2017 for alleged links to a purported plot to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, the government said Tuesday. Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced the death of the 66-year-old Baduel on Twitter.

Baduel led the military movement that put Chávez back in the presidency after a failed two-day coup attempt in April 2002. After being considered one of Chávez’s most loyal collaborators, he broke with Chavez in a disagreement over a constitutional reform the president sought to implement in 2007 that would have allowed the creation of a socialist state.

Baduel was considered by some to be a political prisoner since his initial arrest in 2009 and subsequent prosecution, just after breaking with Chavez and becoming one of the leader’s staunchest critics. He had been in a SEBIN political police cell since 2017 following the revocation of a house arrest benefit received in 2015 after serving more than half of a seven-year sentence for the alleged theft of public funds and abuse of authority during his tenure as defense minister in 2006-2007.

In 2019, another judicial process was opened alleging that Baduel was linked to a coup plot. That move came a day after the Maduro government said authorities had thwarted a coup plot by a group of retired military, civilians and police. Officials alleged the plot was planned to include the murder of the president and his wife along with other officials and military chiefs.