April 6, 2009:
A former Venezuelan Minister of Defense, retired general Raul Baduel, has been arrested and charged with corruption. It has long been suspected that someone in the defense ministry was taking something off the top in the many arms purchases Venezuela has made in the last eight years. Baduel served as defense minister from 2002-7, but quit two years ago to protest president Hugo Chavez's efforts to change the constitution and become president for life. A year later, Baduel was being investigated for corruption, and now he is under arrest because the government fears he will flee the country to avoid prosecution.
Bribes to officials, to facilitate large contracts, is an old tradition throughout South America, especially when it comes to defense spending. Chavez promised to stop that sort of thing, but it quickly became apparent that it was business as usual. A side benefit of the corruption is that if one of your allies turns on you, as Baduel did to Chavez, you can hit back with a corruption investigation.