CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Raúl Isaías Baduel, former Venezuelan defense minister and ally turned critic of the late President Hugo Chávez, has died of COVID-19 while in prison, where he has been awaiting trial since 2017 for alleged links to an alleged plot to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, the government said on Tuesday.
Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced the death of Baduel, 66, on Twitter, saying that “we send our condolences to his family and friends.”
Baduel was considered by some to be a political prisoner since his first arrest in 2009 and the prosecutions that followed, just after breaking up with Chavez and becoming one of the leader’s fiercest critics.
He had been in the SEBIN political police cell since 2017 following the revocation of a house arrest allowance received in 2015 after serving more than half of a seven-year prison sentence for alleged theft of funds public and abuse of power during his tenure as Minister of Defense. in 2006-2007.
In 2019, another court case was opened alleging that Baduel was linked to a coup plot. The move came a day after the Maduro government said authorities foiled a coup plot by a group of retired military, civilians and police. Officials alleged the plot was intended to include the murder of the president and his wife as well as other officials and military leaders.
Baduel led the military movement that returned Chavez to the presidency after a failed two-day coup attempt in April 2002. After being considered one of Chavez’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 indefinite re-election and the creation of a socialist state.