MIAMI – The Venezuela-based kin of the late Carlos Andres Perez rejected on Monday a suggestion that the body of the former Venezuelan president be placed in a crypt pending the outcome of the U.S. court battle pitting them against the deceased politico’s long-time mistress.
The proposal was made in Miami by Judge Arthur Rothenberg at the start of a trial to determine whether Perez is to be buried in the United States, as is the wish of his mistress Cecilia Matos and the two daughters she bore the erstwhile head of state, or in Venezuela, as demanded by wife Blanca Rodriguez de Perez and her children.
Though estranged for decades, Carlos and Blanca were never divorced.
The 88-year-old Perez died Christmas Day in Miami of a heart attack. While the Matos family planned a burial here, Blanca Rodriguez de Perez obtained a court injunction last week blocking the interment.
Hours after the injunction was obtained, Cecilia Matos and her daughters issued a statement saying they would not resist Blanca Rodriguez’s demand for the repatriation of Carlos’ remains.
“Returning him is a manner of offering a tribute to him,” the Matos women said then, adding that Carlos Andres Perez belongs “now to Venezuela and to all Venezuelans.”
Since then, however, Cecilia Matos and daughters Cecilia Victoria and Maria Francia decided to fight repatriation.
Blanca and her children tried unsuccessfully on Monday to have the judge exclude Cecilia Matos from the case.
Noting that the court proceedings could take up to three months, Rosenberg proposed that the remains be deposited in a crypt as a provisional solution.
The family members representing Blanca opposed the provisional measure, having heard that similar cases have gone on so long that the temporary solution became permanent.
The widow, who married Perez in 1948, wants to have the late head of state buried in a Caracas cemetery beside his daughter Thais, who died 15 years ago.
But Cecilia Matos and her daughters oppose the repatriation, arguing that Carlos, who governed Venezuela from 1974-1979 and again from 1989-1993, did not wish to be buried in the Andean country as long as current President Hugo Chavez – who sought to overthrow Perez in a failed 1992 coup – remains in power.
Popular for having nationalized Venezuela’s oil industry during his first mandate, Perez was confronted with massive unrest less than a month into his second term, when Caracas residents rebelled against draconian austerity measures imposed at the demand of the International Monetary Fund.
The disturbances known as the “Caracazo” erupted on Feb. 27, 1989, and were harshly put down by the police and army with a toll of between 300 and 1,000 dead.
After thwarting the putsch led by Chavez – then a lieutenant colonel – Perez was forced out of office in 1993 after being convicted on corruption charges he said were politically motivated. EFE