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article imageVenezuela releases former general-turned-Chavez critic: Lawyer

By AFP     Aug 13, 2015 in World

A former Venezuelan defense minister and ally-turned-critic of the late president Hugo Chavez has been released on parole after spending more than six years in prison on corruption charges, his lawyer said Thursday.

Raul Isaias Baduel, who was instrumental in restoring Chavez to power after an attempted coup in 2002, was released Wednesday night from the Ramo Verde military prison, his lawyer told AFP.

"He has been granted conditional release," his lawyer Omar Mora told AFP.

Baduel, who stepped down as defense minister in late 2007 amid a falling out with Chavez, was convicted on corruption charges in 2010 and sentenced to seven years and 11 months in prison.

Under the terms of his release, Baduel is barred from making public statements and must report to a judge once a month, his lawyer said.

Now 60, Baduel has had a tumultuous career in which he went from being hailed as Chavez's savior to becoming one of his fiercest critics.

An early follower of Chavez, he led the military operation that overturned the short-lived April 2002 coup, freeing the Venezuelan president from his captors.

Chavez made a triumphal return to power, and dominated Venezuelan political life until his death from cancer in 2013.

Venezuelan General Raul Baduel  pictured on November 12  2007  had a tumultuous career in which he w...
Venezuelan General Raul Baduel, pictured on November 12, 2007, had a tumultuous career in which he went from being hailed as Chavez's savior to becoming one of his fiercest critics
Juan Barreto, AFP/File

Chavez initially rewarded Baduel's loyalty, making him head of the armed forces in 2004 until his retirement in late 2007.

Barely out of uniform, however, Baduel became a vocal critic of Chavez and his ultimately successful attempts to abolish presidential term limits.

Chavez accused him of irregularities while serving as defense minister, and Baduel was jailed in April 2009. He maintained the charges were politically motivated.

His release comes a day after another dissident, Daniel Ceballos, was moved from the Ramo Verde military prison to house arrest in Caracas.

Ceballos was ousted as the opposition mayor of the restive border city of San Cristobal and thrown in jail in March 2014 on charges of inciting anti-government street protests.

Two other opposition leaders -- Leopoldo Lopez and Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma -- remain in custody, Lopez at Ramo Verde and Ledezma under house arrest since undergoing surgery in April.

President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's successor, has come under growing international pressure to free all political prisoners.

Domestically, public support for the government has plunged amid a worsening economic crisis aggravated by falling oil prices.

Venezuelans, meanwhile, are preparing to go to the polls in December to elect a new National Assembly, with the opposition favored to win for the first time since the rise of Chavez.

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