Venezuelan General Raúl Baduel, a former ally of President Hugo Chávez who later became one of the country's most notorious political prisoners, has died Tuesday of COVID-19 at the age of 66 and while still incarcerated.
We regret the death of Raúl Isaías Baduel from a cardiorespiratory arrest caused by Covid-19, prosecutor Tarek William Saab wrote on Twitter regarding the former Defense Minister. Baduel's death occurred while he was receiving the appropriate medical care and after having received the first dose of vaccine, Saab added.
Baduel helped restore Chávez after the April 2002 coup which briefly removed him from power but later became his adversary. He was sentenced to eight years in jail for corruption and after being released in 2015, he was again incarcerated on charges of conspiracy against current President Nicolás Maduro, who removed him from the Armed Forces and demoted him.
With the death of Raúl Isaías Baduel, there are now 10 political prisoners who died in custody, lawyer Gonzalo Himiob, Vice Chairman of the NGO Foro Penal said.
The responsibility for the life and health of any detainee rests with the State. Medical treatment is continuously required for prisoners. There is hardly ever an adequate response, Himiob posted on Twitter.
Two of Baduel's sons have also been arrested under allegations of conspiracy, the first of them Raúl Emilio, who is now at large. Josnars Adolfo Baduel was arrested for his alleged participation in a maritime incursion in May 2019 that sought the departure of Maduro. He is still in custody.
Saab pointed out Baduel had received the first dose of the vaccine against COVID-19. The disgraced General had been imprisoned in April 2009 and his 8-year sentence came out May 7. On August 12, 2015, he was released into the house-for-jail regime for five months on condition he did not speak to the media about his case. In January 2016, he was taken to court and again incarcerated after being accused of violating his probation.
With only one year of his sentence remaining, he was charged with new crimes and locked up at the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) in Caracas.
His relatives and lawyers denounced that, in this detention centre, and without a court ruling justifying his confinement, he had been the victim of physical and psychological torture, in a special cell known as La Tumba (The Grave).
Baduel had to wait a year for his preliminary hearing, a process that according to the law should be completed within 45 days of his arrest.
In June 2019, he was transferred from the Sebin headquarters to Military Police in Fuerte Tiuna, without informing his lawyer or his family, who denounced a forced disappearance and could not see him for three months.
In December that year, he was admitted to a Comprehensive Diagnostic Center (CDI) in Fuerte Tiuna, but according to his lawyer, he did not receive proper care.
At the beginning of 2020, he was taken again to the Sebin headquarters in the Plaza Venezuela neighbourhood in Caracas. On Sept. 30 he was taken to the Sebin facilities in El Helicoide.
On that occasion, his daughter Andreina Baduel rose a red flag through social media and insisted on being allowed to verify his conditions.
“Enough already, she also wrote.
Foro Penal Chairman Alfredo Romero noted that Baduel is the tenth political prisoner to die in custody since 2014 and the third only this year.”
According to Foro Penal, there were 259 political prisoners in Venezuela by Oct. 5, 126 civilians and 133 of military background. Only 15 are women, against 244 men, while 258 are adults and one is a teenager.