Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela helicopter attack: Who is pilot Oscar Pérez?

Oscar Pérez in a helicopter Image copyright Instagram
Image caption Oscar Pérez is believed to have worked as a pilot for a former minister

Who is Oscar Pérez, the police officer who launched a helicopter attack on the Venezuelan Supreme Court on 27 June?

Out of nowhere, he became the country's most talked-about man and was on the run until he appeared in an online video on 5 July vowing to keep up his attacks on the government.

President Nicolás Maduro has declared him a terrorist, accusing him of stealing a military helicopter and dropping grenades on the court to mount a coup.

Here is what we know about him so far.

Highly trained agent

Now in his mid-30s, Oscar Pérez has been a member of the forensic police force, known as the CICPC, for 15 years.

The Venezuelan media emphasise that he is a highly trained agent, part of the Special Actions Brigade (BAE), where he is chief of operations for the Air Force division.

The president said he once worked as a pilot for the ex-minister of interior and justice, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, who, according to Mr Maduro, has been plotting a coup against him.

The ex-minister called the accusations "nonsense", according to local media.

The government has also accused Mr Pérez of having ties to the United States, specifically the CIA, which it also often says is trying to overthrow it.

As yet, Mr Pérez has no confirmed links with any international or domestic groups, although he has claimed to be part of an anti-government coalition of military, police and civilians.

Action man of social media

On the day of the attack, Mr Pérez posted a series of video statements on his Instagram account, calling people to rise up "to recuperate our beloved Venezuela".

The posts suggest someone who is prepared to put himself under public scrutiny.

He appears flanked by four armed, masked men, and stares squarely at the camera to read his message.

Image copyright Instagram
Image caption Mr Pérez made a series of video statement on Instagram

Beyond this, he has laid bare the rest of his life in more than 900 posts on the social network. Or at least he has laid out the curated life he wants to present to the world: a self-styled action man.

He poses with large guns and helicopters. He is seen practising self-defence moves and scuba-diving.

In January he was even pictured scuba-diving while brandishing a high-calibre weapon underwater. It was captioned, "We prepare ourselves, so that there are no limits. Venezuela is a single nation."

In another, he shows off his skills by shooting a target over his shoulder, behind his back, using only a make-up mirror as a guide.

Image copyright Instagram
Image caption He has posted videos of himself practicing target-shooting tricks online

But he is also shown patting police dogs and hugging child cancer patients.

Alongside pictures of hospitalised children, he comments on the medicine shortages that have been gripping the country.

Earlier this year, the national medical federation said that hospitals had less than 5% of the medicines they needed.

The president has blamed the problem on an economic war against his government and the sharp fall in oil prices, but his critics blame his mismanagement.

Movie actor

Mr Pérez has also worked as an actor and film producer.

In 2015, he played a role in Venezuelan film, Suspended Death, which tells the story of elite police officers rescuing the victim of a kidnapping.

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Media captionHelicopter circles Caracas buildings before bang and sustained gunshots are heard

In a promotional interview with local media, he described his own life in bombastic terms: "I am a helicopter pilot, a combat diver and a free parachutist. I am also a father, a companion and an actor ... I am a man who goes out without knowing if he will return home because death is part of evolution."

'Peace is Coming'

Before the attack on Tuesday, he posted a picture - without any commentary - of a painting by contemporary US artist Jon McNaughton.

It shows a glorified Jesus Christ surrounded by dozens of soldiers from different eras, and is titled 'Peace is Coming'.

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