Friday, September 04, 2009
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is using revenues from the energy sector to bankroll what he calls his "socialism for the 21st century." The charismatic autocrat is trying to cement his hold on power in a bid to silence a growing political opposition.
By Jens Gluesing
A poster proclaiming "fatherland, socialism or death" adorns the military prison in Los Teques, a suburb of the Venezuelan capital Caracas. Relatives of the prisoners throng the stairs that lead to the cell wing. The soldiers poke holes in meat pies, cakes and other small presents, looking for cell phones and weapons.
The most famous prisoner in the country is held in a spacious cell on the third floor. General Raul Isaias Baduel, 54, used to be defense minister and commander-in-chief of the army. Now he eagerly accepts a couple of newspapers that his guards have allowed through. He has no access to telephones or the Internet.
Five months ago, a group of armed men waylaid him near his home. When he tried to use his mobile phone to call for help, one of the assailants pressed a pistol against his forehead. He was driven in an unmarked vehicle to a base where his captors identified themselves as members of the military intelligence agency.
The state prosecutor alleges that after Baduel stepped down as defense minister two years ago, he embezzled the equivalent of $100,000 (€70,000) from state coffers. The soldiers who can allegedly substantiate these accusations have yet to make a statement. A court hearing has been postponed because the judge is allegedly ill. "I'm a political prisoner," says the general. He holds an old friend of his responsible for his arrest: President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias....(Remainder.)