CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday offered condolences after the death of former President Carlos Andres Perez, but also said he hopes his longtime adversary's style of governing never again returns to the South America country.
The 88-year-old Perez died in Miami on Saturday. Chavez, who led a failed coup attempt against him in 1992, said Perez's family has a right to bring his body to Venezuela for burial if they wish — though the family said his funeral will be in Miami.
"May he rest in peace. But with him... may the form of politics that he personified rest in peace and leave here forever," Chavez said in a televised speech in western Venezuela, accompanied by Bolivian President Evo Morales.
Chavez said Perez — who governed Venezuela from 1974-79 and again from 1989-93 — led governments that violated citizens' rights and were subservient to U.S. interests.
"We send his relatives our regrets, our regrets, and our wish that that old, egotistical.. way of doing politics never again returns to Venezuela," Chavez said.
He said a relative of Perez had asked someone close to the government for permission to fly the body to Venezuela for burial, and Chavez said "they have every right."
But relatives in Miami said they have no intention of returning his remains to Venezuela until Chavez is no longer in office. They said Perez died of respiratory failure and would be buried in Miami on Wednesday following a wake on Tuesday.
One of Perez's daughters, Maria Francia Perez, said neither she nor her sister had contacted the Venezuelan government, and that her father "was never in agreement with returning with antidemocratic governments like the current one" in power. Perez also had other children from a previous marriage.
Other Latin American leaders, meanwhile, offered praise for Perez.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said in a statement that he had a great personal relationship with Perez, expressing condolences to his family and describing Perez as a "statesman."
Peruvian President Alan Garcia told reporters in Lima that "like any politician, he was a man often argued about," but that "he was very democratic."
Perez lived out his final years in Miami while Chavez's government demanded he be turned over to stand trial for his role in quelling bloody 1989 riots in Caracas.
Perez, who largely dropped out of the public eye after a 2003 stroke, denied wrongdoing. In a statement issued by his office earlier this year, he accusing the Supreme Court of doing Chavez's bidding after it approved plans to request his extradition.
Venezuela's main opposition coalition said in statement that Perez was for years "one of the principal promoters of democracy in Latin America."
In his first term in the 1970s, he won popularity by nationalizing Venezuela's oil industry, paying off foreign oil companies and then capitalizing on a period of prosperity that allowed his government to build subway lines and bankroll new social programs.
He became one of Latin America's most prominent political leaders, popularly known after his initials as "CAP."
Venezuelans elected him for a second time in 1988, hoping for a return to good times after a decade of economic decline. But his popularity plunged when he tried to push through an economic austerity program including increasing the subsidized prices of gasoline. Anger among the poor boiled over in the 1989 riots and more than 300 people were killed in the unrest known as the "Caracazo." Some activists put the death toll much higher.
Perez came to personify the old guard political establishment bitterly opposed by Chavez. Perez survived two coup attempts in 1992, the first led by Chavez, who was then a young army lieutenant colonel.
Diego Arria, a close ally who was governor of Caracas and also minister of information and tourism during Perez's first term, described him as a democrat and "the opposite image" of Chavez.
Arria — who was also ambassador to the U.N. during Perez's second term — accused Chavez of trying to kill Perez and his family during the coup.
Chavez spent two years in prison for leading the coup attempt and was pardoned in 1994 by then-President Rafael Caldera. Chavez has called it a legitimate rebellion against a government that he felt betrayed the country's interests.
While he was in office, Perez's popularity rose and fell with the economic situation. Even as he faced domestic troubles, though, he sought international involvement.
He helped promote talks to end wars in Central America in the 1980s, and when Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in 1991, he sent a plane for him. Then-U.S. President George H.W. Bush at the time called Perez one of the hemisphere's great democratic leaders.
Venezuela's Congress impeached Perez on corruption charges in 1993 and he was placed under house arrest.
The Supreme Court convicted him in May 1996 of misspending $17 million in public funds. He denied it, calling the accusations politically motivated.
Perez spent more than two years under house arrest, then was released in September 1996.
He was elected senator in 1998, but later left Venezuela after Chavez closed the congress in 1999 to elect a new one under a new constitution. Starting in 2000, Perez spent his time in New York, the Dominican Republic and Miami.
Members of his party Democratic Action announced in 2008 that Perez hoped to return to Venezuela and held talks with judicial officials on that possibility.Comment on this story
"He always wanted to return to Venezuela, but that isn't possible until Mr. Chavez is no longer in power," Perez's daughter Cecilia Victoria said in Miami.
She urged Venezuelans to honor his legacy by standing up for democracy under Chavez, who faces re-election in 2012.
Associated Press writers Gisela Salomon in Miami, Vivian Sequera in Bogota, Colombia, Franklin Briceno in Lima, Peru, and Jorge Rueda in Caracas contributed to this report.