Chavez Rounding Up Top Political Foes

Is president tightening grip as oil prices drop?
By Gabriel Winant,  Newser User
Posted Apr 3, 2009 7:36 AM CDT
Maracaibo's Mayor Manuel Rosales delivers a speech during a rally supporting him in Maracaibo, Venezuela, Friday, March 20. He has gone into hiding.   (AP Photo/Reinaldo D'Santiago)
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(Newser) – The Venezuelan government arrested opposition figure Raúl Baduel yesterday, the second such move in recent weeks, the Wall Street Journal reports. Baduel, a former defense minister and ally of President Hugo Chavez, helped restore the president to power after a coup in 2002, but he helped rally opposition to his reelection in 2007. Last month, Chavez sought an arrest warrant for his 2006 opponent, Manuel Rosales, sending him into hiding.

“All available information suggests that this is selective prosecution motivated by political reasons,” says an official with Human Rights Watch, himself expelled from the country at gunpoint last year. Chavez may be clamping down as oil prices sink, hampering his ability to fund the lavish social programs that buttress his popularity with Venezuela’s poor.