Venezuelan supporters pay respects to former president

Venezuelans have gathered in Caracas to pay their last respects to former president Carlos Andrés Pérez, one day after his body was returned from the United States following a lengthy legal battle over his final resting place.

Wednesday, supporters gathered at the headquarters of Perez’s Partido Acción Democracia, where he will lie in state until his funeral today.

Pérez, who died in Miami Dec. 25 at age 88, was Venezuela’s president from 1974 to 1979 and again from 1989 until 1993. His death set off a legal battle between his estranged wife, Blanca Pérez, and his longtime companion, Cecelia Matos.

Blanca Pérez wanted the burial to take place in Venezuela, but Ms. Matos and her daughters wanted the body buried in Florida. Ms. Matos and her daughters said they would not return the body to Venezuela until current President Hugo Chávez 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, Pérez survived two coup attempts, including the 1992 effort led by Hugo Chávez, who at the time was an army lieutenant colonel.

In later years, Pérez became a strong critic of Chávez and was ultimately brought down when Venezuela’s Congress impeached him on corruption charges.

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