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August 14, 2006
Chavez Rival Escapes From Prison

Hugo Chavez may want to take his mind off of the US and his lips off of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's posterior. His chief rival has just escaped from a military prison, and it looks like he had some help:

A senior Venezuelan opposition leader has escaped from a military prison, the country's attorney general has said.

Carlos Ortega was sentenced to almost 16 years in jail last year after being convicted of inciting unrest during a strike that began in late 2002.

He escaped along with three military officers and may have been aided by some authorities, Venezuela's attorney general said.

Ortega failed to get asylum from Costa Rica last year and got arrested for his role in a union action that threatened Chavez' rule. Chavez had Ortega jailed, ostensibly for his own safety, although Ortega obviously disagreed with that assessment.

And he wasn't the only one, either. An escape from military custody takes some doing, and certainly some cooperation from people on the inside. This seems rather omninous for Chavez; if the military has decided to take an active role against Chavez' wildly aggressive rule, then a coup may not be far behind. If senior officers are involved, they may have sprung Ortega in order to hold a sense of civil legitimacy in their efforts.

On the other hand, it may just be a cover for the Chavez regime to get rid of Ortega once and for all. A jailed Ortega could serve as a rallying point for anti-Chavez activists. A dead Ortega, especially one who died in an escape attempt, might become a martyr but most likely would get forgotten quickly enough. If that's the strategy, Ortega's body will turn up sooner than Raul Castro did during his Cuban rule.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 14, 2006 5:29 AM

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Tracked on August 14, 2006 9:00 AM


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