Mérida, April 3rd 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) — On Thursday, Venezuelan authorities arrested former Venezuelan Defense Minister Raúl Isaías Baduel, who is charged with corruption during his term as minister in 2006 and 2007, and has repeatedly failed to appear in court when summoned.
According to Military Attorney General Ernesto Cedeño, national investigators summoned Baduel seven times throughout the year 2008 to testify about the disappearance of 31 million bolivars ($14.4 million) from the Defense Ministry's budget during Baduel's term as minister, and Baduel never appeared.
Venezuela's penal code establishes that a person who does not voluntarily present his or herself in court when summoned may be forced to do so and is considered to be at risk of flight to evade arrest, said Cedeño.
Last October, military authorities detained and questioned Baduel, then released the former minister on a conditional form of probation.
Since then, the investigation has uncovered "sufficient evidence for conviction" of Baduel, said Cedeño this Thursday, after authorities arrested Baduel, presented the charges against him, and read him his rights.
"It was necessary to implement an arrest warrant in order to make [Baduel] face the accusations against him," Cedeño said Thursday. "His rights to defense and due process are guaranteed."
A formal accusation is set to be filed within 30 days, according to Cedeño. Meanwhile, Baduel is being held in the Ramo Verde prison near Caracas.
Following his arrest, Baduel said the investigation is a form of political persecution ordered by President Hugo Chávez. "[Chávez] uses the justice system and the different public powers as mercenaries" and "gives the orders to those who perpetrate these acts of intimidation," said Baduel.
Baduel is a long time former ally of Chávez. Following a two-day military coup d'état in April 2002, Baduel, who was in charge of a military base at the time, was instrumental in bringing Chávez back to power.
In late 2007, after stepping down as defense minister, Baduel publicly opposed the Chávez government's constitutional reform proposal, which was subsequently voted down by a narrow margin in a national referendum.
On Friday, the youth branches of several opposition political parties said the investigations of Baduel and the opposition leader Manuel Rosales mark a new era of "repression and horror" in Venezuela, and accused the Chávez government of "criminalizing dissent."
The young activists, who are known for violent protests, called for increased protests in the coming weeks, as the anniversary of the April 2002 coup approaches. The activists are led by Yon Goicoechea, a former law student from an elite university who received a $500,000 award from the U.S.-based libertarian Cato Institute last year.