In 2002, Raul Baduel saved Hugo Chavez from a much-written-about coup attempt. Which did him a fat lot of good in 2009:
Venezuela has arrested a former defence minister who is openly critical of Hugo Chávez, the president, an official said on Thursday, days after an opposition leader charged with corruption went into hiding.
Critics of Mr Chávez have accused the socialist leader of using the justice system to pursue critics of his government, which faces a budget crunch this year as the nation’s oil income shrinks.
Venezuela’s chief military prosecutor said Raul Baduel, who led an operation to rescue Mr Chávez from a bungled coup attempt in 2002, was arrested to prevent him from fleeing to avoid being tried on charges of illicit enrichment.
While campaigning for allies in elections last year, Mr Chávez called [opposition leader] Rosales a thief and a drug trafficker and said: “I am determined to put Manuel Rosales in jail.”
Mr Baduel was a close confidant of Mr Chávez for years but broke with him in 2007 after Mr Chávez proposed a broad constitutional overhaul that would have expanded his power. He accused Mr Chávez of concentrating power and weakening the nation’s democracy.
Mr Chávez won a referendum in February allowing him to run for re-election as often as he likes.
But last year opposition candidates defeated several of his allies in key elections for governors and mayors. Mr Chávez has described these opposition figures as “fascists” and has recommended corruption investigations against them as well.
…To me, there’s a clear difference between regimes that use violence selectively to repress dissent and those that try for comprehensive repression.
Regimes in the first group, which I call autocratic, generally allow dissent, while semi-randomly selecting a smattering of dissidents for harassment, persecution and violence. Autocratic regimes in this mold rely on intimidation: since dissidents have no way of knowing, a priori, if they’ll be in the group selected for intimidation or not, they have compelling reasons to feel insecure, to fear the consequences from stepping over some invisible, indeed permanently changing, lines. Selective intimidation is designed to provoke self-censorship, and it works. Chavismo, until now, has been a classic autocratic regime.
Dictatorship is something different. Dictatorship is not about picking off a few dissidents now and again pour encourager les autres. Dictatorships set out to make repression comprehensive, to go after everyone who challenges the ruling elite’s power. While autocracy whispers in your ear “if you dissent, you might end up being targetted for repression”, dictatorship shouts out “if you dissent, you will end up a target for repression.”
Autocracy is content to keep political dissent suppressed, enfeebled and marginalized. Dictatorship seeks to wipe it out altogether.
Even today, chavismo is very far from being a dictatorship – as people who lived through the Pérez Jiménez dictatorship know only too well. If you’re reading this in Venezuela, and you haven’t taken elaborate precautions to log on to Caracas Chronicles through a proxy server to conceal your tracks from Disip, you’re living demonstration that chavismo is not a dictatorship: real dictatorships set out to punish not just those who write seditious material (like me) but also those who read them (like you).
What the last week has witnessed in Venezuela, however, is a move towards comprehensiveness. The state actions against Rosales, Baduel, the accusations against Teodoro and the stepping up of intimidation against Globovisión certainly suggest a move away from a strategy of selective intimidation and towards taking out all the leaders of the opposition in one go. These moves represent a clear step-change from the kind of selective repression we’ve seen until now.
But he was elected!