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The head of the Organization of American States (OAS) said Thursday he will call on the United Nations to exhume and carry out an autopsy on the body of a prominent Venezuelan dissident who died in custody.
General Raul Baduel, who aligned with Venezuela's late Hugo Chavez but later broke ranks with the socialist strongman and spent years as a prominent political prisoner, died of Covid-19, according to an official announcement earlier this week.
"The United Nations has a mission on the ground and this autopsy is absolutely key to addressing this case and determining responsibilities that may exist in this regard," Luis Almagro said after meeting at the OAS headquarters in Washington with a lawyer for the Baduel family, Omar Mora Tosta, and with representatives of the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.
The OAS head said he will take the matter before the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, whose office on Wednesday urged Caracas to guarantee an "independent investigation" into the death of Baduel and called for the release of all those arbitrarily detained in Venezuela.
"The release of all political prisoners is a moral, ethical, legal imperative for all of us who seek democracy," said Almagro.
He noted that Baduel is the tenth political prisoner to die in custody since Nicolas Maduro came to power in 2013 after Chavez's death.
For his part, Mora Tosta requested the formation of an independent international commission to investigate the causes of Baduel's death, saying the general had died in the arms of his son, Josnars Adolfo Baduel, who was imprisoned for his alleged participation in a failed maritime invasion in May 2020 known as "Operation Gideon" that was aimed at overthrowing Maduro.
Baduel served as defense minister under Chavez and helped reinstate him after the April 2002 coup that briefly removed him from power.
But the two later fell out after Baduel argued against a constitutional reform proposed by Chavez.
In 2009, Baduel was accused of corruption and jailed for eight years.
Freed in 2015, Baduel was arrested again in 2017 and accused of plotting against Maduro.