UN urges independent investigation into death of former Venezuelan minister

The Venezuelan government says that Raúl Baduel, who served as Defense Minister under Hugo Chávez, died due to the coronavirus.

The United Nations human rights office urged Venezuela to carry out an “independent investigation” into the death of former minister Raúl Baduel, a prominent dissident who was considered a political prisoner by the country’s opposition.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Raúl Baduel while in detention,” the office, led by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, said on Twitter Wednesday.

“We call on #Venezuela to ensure an independent investigation, take all necessary measures to guarantee access to medical care for detainees, consider alternative measures of detention and release all those detained arbitrarily.”

Baduel was arrested in 2009 on corruption charges after fighting with the Socialist Party, was eventually placed under house arrest, and then re-imprisoned in 2017 for allegedly conspiring against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

A retired general, he served as Venezuela’s defense minister under former President Hugo Chávez. But the relationship between the couple fell apart after Baduel opposed a constitutional reform proposed by Chávez.

Two of Baduel’s sons have also been arrested for alleged conspiracy.

Raúl Emilio Baduel has since been released, but Josnars Adolfo Baduel remains in detention, accused of participating in the failed maritime invasion in May 2020 known as “Operation Gideon” that aimed to overthrow Maduro.

The country’s attorney general announced Baduel’s death on Tuesday, saying he died as a result of the coronavirus.

But Tarek Saab didn’t say yes he was hospitalized or jailed when he died. Baduel had been detained at a Sebin intelligence police site.

Baduel served as Defense Minister under former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. [File: Jenny Fung/AFP]

“We regret the death of Raúl Isaías Baduel due to heart-respiratory failure, a product of COVID-19, although he was receiving the corresponding medical attention and had received the first dose of the vaccine,” Saab said in a Twitter post.

Baduel’s family said they learned of his death through Twitter.

“I have not received a call from anyone in the government,” his wife, Cruz Zambrano de Baduel, told the EVTV internet channel. She added that she was skeptical that her husband, whom she had last seen four weeks ago, had contracted COVID-19.

Human rights groups have blamed the government for his death.

“With the death of Raúl Isaías Baduel, there are ten political prisoners who have died in custody,” Gonzalo Himiob, a lawyer for Foro Penal, a rights organization that provides legal assistance, said on Twitter.

“The responsibility for the life and health of any prisoner rests with the state.”


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