Latin America & Caribbean

Ex-leader Perez to be buried in Venezuela as row ends

Carlos Andres Perez. Photo: October 2010
Image caption Carlos Andres Perez served as president from 1974-79 and 1989-93

The long-term mistress of former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez has said she will not now contest plans to have him buried in Venezuela.

Cecilia Matos, and their two daughters, had wanted to bury him in Florida, his home for more than a decade.

But his estranged wife, Blanca Perez, had obtained a court order to block plans to have him buried until the dispute was resolved.

Mr Perez died of a heart attack in Miami on Saturday, at the age of 88.

He served as president of Venezuela between 1974 and 1979, and again between 1989 and 1993.

Ms Matos - who is frequently referred to as the wife of Mr Perez, although it is unclear if they were actually married - and her two adult daughters said they would no longer seek to have the former president buried in Miami.

They said returning him to Venezuela - the wish of his first wife - would be a way to pay tribute to him.

Coup survivor

Ahead of the decision by Ms Matos, one of his daughters from his marriage to Blanca Perez - Carolina - said that her mother had the right to decide the fate of her husband's remains.

"They're still married, and the law is very clear in Venezuela and in the United States: When the person dies, the one who has the right to reclaim the body is the spouse, and we exercised that right," she told Associated Press.

Mr Perez's first term was marked by a transformation of Venezuela's economy because of a sudden increase in oil revenues. His second was marred by allegations of corruption.

Forced to leave office in 1993, he was then sentenced to 28 months in prison for the misappropriation of millions of dollars in 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. Mr Perez always denied any wrongdoing.

He survived two coup attempts in 1992, the first of which was led by current President Hugo Chavez, who was then a young army lieutenant colonel.

Based in Miami, Mr Perez fought demands by the current government in Caracas 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.

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