Latin America & Caribbean

Supporters mourn former Venezuelan President Perez

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Media captionCarlos Andres Perez once vowed never to return home as long as President Hugo Chavez remained in power

Supporters of former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez are paying their last respects before his long-delayed burial.

His body is lying in state at the headquarters of his Democratic Action party in Venezuela's capital, Caracas.

A family dispute over whether his last resting place should be in Venezuela had raged since he died in Miami last December.

His remains were finally flown home on Tuesday, draped in a Venezuelan flag.

When he died in exile, aged 88, his estranged wife, Blanca Rodriguez de Perez, insisted she had the right to bring his body home.

But his long-term partner, Cecilia Matos, said he had vowed not to return as long as Hugo Chavez was president.

She later relented, saying she would not oppose a burial in Venezuela.

Mrs Perez obtained a court order to stop him being buried in Miami until the dispute was resolved.

In the US, the remains were kept in a temporary mausoleum.

The BBC's Sarah Grainger in Caracas says the burial of Mr Perez will be a very political affair.

There will be no state honours for the former president but a public funeral will be held at a cemetery in the capital later on Thursday, where other former presidents are interred.

Leading figures from his party will give speeches and supporters and well-wishers have been invited to attend.

Corruption conviction

Perez was twice Venezuela's president, from 1974 to 1979 and again between 1989 and 1993.

His first term was marked by a transformation of Venezuela's economy because of a sudden increase in oil revenues.

Image caption Mr Perez campaigns during his second term as president.

But the second was marred by allegations of corruption.

Forced to leave office in 1993, he was then sentenced to 28 months in prison for misappropriation of public funds.

He spent the first few months in a jail in Caracas, but was then allowed to serve the rest of his term under house arrest. Perez always denied any wrongdoing.

He survived two coup attempts in 1992, the first of which was led by Mr Chavez, who was then an army lieutenant-colonel.

He left Venezuela in 2000. Based in Miami, Perez fought attempts to extradite him to stand trial for his role in putting down riots in 1989.

He was accused of sending troops into the streets to fire indiscriminately on protesters during the so-called Caracazo riots.

In an interview on state television, President Chavez lamented Mr Perez's death while criticising the ex-president's politics, suggesting his economic policies increased poverty and triggered the riots.

"One must regret the death of a human being who has died and so much time passes before a Christian burial," he said.

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