Former Ally Now Rivals Chavez

Ex-defense minister pressed Chavez to admit referendum defeat
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 24, 2007 6:05 PM CST
Former Venezuelan Defense Minister Raul Baduel answers a question during a news conference in Caracas, Monday, Nov. 5, 2007. Baduel, who was a longtime ally of President Hugo Chavez, harshly opposed constitutional...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – An ex-ally has become a formidable rival for Hugo Chavez after the president's defeat in a constitutional referendum that would have given him more power and the right to unlimited reelection. The Wall Street Journal explores the career of Raul Baduel, Chavez’ former friend and defense minister, who protected Chavez from a coup in 2002 but now portrays himself as a guardian of democracy in Venezuela.

When Chavez faced defeat in a referendum on Dec. 2, Baduel appeared on television and implied that election fraud could spark civil war. Within the hour, Chavez admitted his first electoral loss ever—which some analysts call proof of Baduel's influence with the armed forces. A lover of Eastern philosophy who meditates and listens to Gregorian chants, Baduel refuses to rule out a professional "incursion into politics."