Hugo Chavez bids critical farewell to adversary Carlos Andres Perez
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.
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