Support from General Raul Baduel ruined the 2002 coup against the socialist leader, but he later became a political prisoner.
Mr Baduel’s family denied that he had contracted the virus and blamed the government for his death. “My spirit is broken,” said his daughter Andrina Baduel, who had advocated for her father’s independence over the past decade. “The regime killed my dear and brave father.”
On Wednesday, Andrina and other members of the larger Baduel family gathered outside the capital’s Belo Monte morgue and demanded that their bodies not be cremated – as the government has done with most of the deceased Covid-19 victims – so that intensive can be examined. cause of his death.
Mr Baduel rose to prominence in 2002 when he and his elite troops maintained their loyalty to Mr Chávez during a coup that ousted him for 48 hours. After helping Mr. Chavez to restore control, Mr. Baduel became his most senior military officer. Months later, opposition forces launched an oil field strike to topple Mr Chávez and urged Mr Baduel to go against the president. he refuses.
The two separated in 2007 when Mr Baduel protested Mr Chávez’s efforts to change the constitution and eliminate term limits for elected officials. Mr Baduel warned that the move would lead Venezuela to dictatorship. Mr Chavez called Mr Baduel a traitor.
“If I’m a traitor to just one person, that’s fine,” Mr Baduel said in an interview published in 2011 in the book The Sentimental Revolution. “But at least I didn’t betray millions of Venezuelans.”
The general was convicted of corruption charges in 2009, charges he denied and called political persecution. Just days before he finished his sentence in March 2017, Mr Baduel was again charged by Venezuela’s military intelligence with stockpiling weapons and conspiring against the government – this time, led by Mr Chávez’s successor, the president. In Nicolas Maduro. Mr Chavez died in 2013.
The Maduro administration, which has led the country through deadly protests as well as a punishing humanitarian crisis, has been accused by the US and rights organizations of detaining political rivals and extrajudicial killings.
“We are deeply saddened by the custodial death of Raul Baduel,” the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights said. It called for an independent investigation and the “release of all those arbitrarily detained”.
UN agency researchers cite the difficulties of his family in demanding Mr Baduel’s imprisonment and due process without trial in a report Last month there was evidence that “serious human rights violations and crimes have been committed in Venezuela since 2014.”
Mr Baduel is the 10th political prisoner to die in the custody of Mr Maduro’s government, according to the Venezuelan human rights group Foreo Panel. The organization has listed another 259 political prisoners, 50 of whom are in dire need of immediate medical care.
Mr Baduel’s lawyer, Omar Tosta, said his client had frequently complained to him about the psychological effects of isolated detention. But he said the general never talked about being sick or having Covid-19.
Mr Baduel was barred from meeting his family or lawyer last year because of the pandemic. Late last month, his daughter Andrina said, intelligence officers unexpectedly transferred him to “The Tomb” from another detention center. Officials did not say why they were transferred.
The general’s widow, Cruz Maria de Baduel, told EVTV, a Miami-based Venezuelan expatriate channel, that her two daughters were able to visit him last week and showed no signs of being ill at the time. “It is absolutely wrong that he had Covid-19,” she said.
According to Attorney General Tarek William Saab, Mr Baduel stopped breathing as he was receiving medical treatment for a respiratory illness. Mr Saab said Mr Baduel had previously received a dose of a vaccine, but did not give more details.
“It’s all documented, it’s all real,” Mr. Saab said in a text message when asked about Mr. Baduel’s vaccine.
Mr Baduel’s family is also embroiled in a political upheaval while lobbying for his release. His son Ral Emilio Baduel was arrested in 2014 on charges of conspiracy to take part in the protests against Mr. Maduro, but was later released. Another son, Josnar Adolfo Baduel, remains in prison after being arrested in May 2020, along with a group of Venezuelan military dissidents who launched a failed invasion attempt to overthrow Mr.
Members of the Baduel family at the time said that Josnar had been tricked into a futile mission, a sign of his desperation to free his father.
“This is a family that has faced the worst tragedies,” said Rocio San Miguel, director of Citizen Control, a nonprofit that researches Venezuela’s armed forces.
Shri Baduel’s influence in the Armed Forces diminished as M/s. Chavez and Maduro purge the opponents’ army. But Ms San Miguel said she will be remembered for her courage to stand up to a government that has slipped into autocracy.
“He is someone who had the opportunity to flee the country, but decided to face the charges despite the brutality,” she said. “He never deserved this kind of treatment from the revolution.”
–Ginette Gonzalez in Caracas contributed to this article.
Kejal Vyas at [email protected]