Feb 24 (Reuters) - The defection of a governor and popular ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez from his socialist PSUV party this week exposed dissent in Venezuela’s government ranks, where Chavez allies who challenge him publicly often suffer political ostracism.
Henri Falcon, governor of the western Venezuelan state of Lara, left the PSUV party this week and joined the smaller PPT party, which is ostensibly aligned with Chavez but has often been criticized by him.
Following is a factbox of the main political figures and who have fallen out with Chavez:
* Francisco Arias Cardenas led a failed military coup alongside Chavez in 1992. Both men were imprisoned and gained fame and supporters in Venezuelan political circles. Arias Cardenas supported Chavez’s election in 1998, but broke with him two years later, running against Chavez in 2000 presidential elections. The campaign was marked by mudslinging.
Arias Cardenas reconciled with Chavez in 2005 and has returned to government, most recently as vice-minister for Latin America and the Caribbean.
* Luis Miquilena, a former mentor to Chavez who served as his top political advisor during the first years of his presidency, broke away from Chavez during a brief coup d’etat that took Chavez out of power for several hours in 2002. Miquilena has since opposed Chavez publicly, appearing in the Venezuelan media, especially during periods of political tension in the country.
* Raul Isaias Baduel was considered a hero of Chavez’s revolutionary movement earlier this decade after he directed a political program that helped bring Chavez back to power following the brief coup in 2002. He became a top army commander and a defense minister until 2007, when he left the government. That year he campaigned against a Chavez-led constitutional reform and criticized the Venezuelan leader, for which he has been ostracized by Chavez supporters. Last year, Baduel was arrested and accused of corruption. He is now serving a prison sentence.
* Podemos, a political party founded in 2002, supported Chavez until 2007, but did not join a Chavez-led effort to combine the political parties that supported him under a single banner in the PSUV party. Podemos at first remained loyal to Chavez until 12 of its Parliament members joined the opposition. The party has now moved into staunch opposition against Chavez. (Reporting by Enrique Andres Pretel; Writing by Joshua Schneyer; Editing by Chris Wilson)