Venezuelans Pay Respects as Body of Former President Perez Returns

Posted October 5th, 2011 at 5:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Venezuelans have gathered in Caracas to pay their last respects to former President Carlos Andres Perez, one day after his body was returned from the United States following a lengthy legal battle over his final resting place.

On Wednesday, supporters gathered at the headquarters of Mr. Perez's Democratic Action Party, where he will lie in state until his funeral Thursday.

Mr. Perez died in Miami December 25 at age 88. His death set off a legal battle between his estranged wife, Blanca Perez, and his longtime companion, Cecelia Matos.

Blanca Perez wanted the burial to take place in Venezuela, but Matos and her daughters wanted the body buried in Florida. Matos and her daughters said they would not return Mr. Perez's body to Venezuela until current President Hugo Chavez left office.

In August, the two families reached a confidential agreement that allowed the remains to be sent back to Venezuela. During the judicial process, the former president's remains were kept in a temporary grave.

During his lifetime, Mr. Perez survived a 1992 coup attempt by Mr. Chavez, who at the time was an army lieutenant colonel. In later years, Mr. Perez became a strong critic of Mr. Chavez.

Carlos Andres Perez was Venezuela's president from 1974 to 1979 and again from 1989 until 1993. Although he survived two coup attempts, including the one led by Hugo Chavez, Mr. Perez was later brought down when Venezuela's Congress impeached him on corruption charges.