A close ally of the former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez who fell out with his successor Nicolás Maduro said Saturday he had been freed after spending five years in prison.
Jan 21, 2023
The release of Miguel Rodríguez Torres, a former minister, was widely seen as stemming from recent reconciliation talks in México between the leftist Maduro government and the Venezuelan opposition.
The talks are aimed at ending a long-running political and economic crisis.
After his release, news reports said Rodríguez Torres left for exile in Spain.
In a video posted on social media, the retired military officer said he was torn between joy over being released after five years in what he called “the gray box” and sadness over leaving.
“I am now going to travel away from my country, leave my beloved Venezuela,” he said, adding that former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero had worked behind the scenes for three years to secure his freedom.
Rodríguez Torres held several senior posts under Chávez during his rule from 1999 to 2013. He had joined Chávez in a failed coup in 1992.
After Chávez died of cancer in 2013 and Maduro, his hand-picked successor, took power, Rodríguez Torres stayed on to serve as interior and justice minister.
But, like other figures close to Chávez, he eventually fell out with Maduro and became an outspoken critic of his rule, until he was finally arrested by the intelligence services at a hotel in 2018.
Rodríguez Torres was accused of a slew of crimes, including treason, espionage and instigation to rebellion, but he was never convicted.