Former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez, who nationalised the oil industry, survived a coup attempt by future leader Hugo Chavez, and was later driven out of office on corruption charges, has died in Miami, his daughter told local media.
AFP - Former Venezuelan president Carlos Andres Perez, who nationalized the oil industry and then survived a coup attempt by future leader Hugo Chavez, has died in Miami, his daughter told local media.
As a two-term president, Perez led Venezuela through rising fortunes as well as deeply turbulent times -- including the country's worst-ever riots that left hundreds dead in 1989 after he initiated economic reforms -- and eventually was driven out of office on corruption allegations.
Maria Francia Perez told Venezuela's Globovision television network that her 88-year-old father, who had been living in the United States for the past decade, passed away unexpectedly at 2:41 pm (1841 GMT) on Christmas Day of an apparent heart attack.
"It was very sudden. He woke up in very good spirits this December 25th. He was very chatty; he was talking to us," she said.
But by mid-afternoon her father was gone, she said, dying "from one moment to the next."
The leftist leader governed Venezuela twice: from 1974 to 1979 and 1989-1993.
During his first term Perez oversaw the formation of state-run Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), which allowed the oil-rich nation to benefit dramatically from the soaring energy prices of the early 1970s.
As his country's stature on the oil industry's international stage grew, Perez's first presidency earned the nickname "Saudi Venezuela."
Just weeks after his victory in the 1988 election for his second term, Perez struck a deal with the International Monetary Fund to embrace more free market policies in order to secure a multi-billion-dollar IMF loan to help pay down Venezuela's external debt.
He was sworn in on February 2, 1989, but within weeks there were massive street riots to protest the economic reforms, which included spikes in fuel and public transport prices.
The uprising, which became known as the "Caracazo," was the strongest anti-government protest in modern Venezuelan history. It was put down with force, and the revolt's suppression officially left 276 people dead.
On several occasions, current President Hugo Chavez has looked back at the Caracazo and described it as a protest against the social inequalities which sowed the seeds for his own socialist "Bolivarian revolution."
It was in 1992 during Perez's second term that Chavez -- at the time a little-known army lieutenant colonel -- led an abortive 1992 military coup, several years before being democratically elected to lead Venezuela.
Perez survived that and another coup attempt the same year, but in March 1993 the attorney general called on the Supreme Court to impeach the president for misappropriation and embezzlement of some 250 million Bolivars (17 million dollars).
Perez refused to resign, and the National Congress removed him from office in August 1993.
Three years later he was convicted on the same corruption charges and jailed for 28 months. Released in late 1998, he sought to revive his political career, winning a Senate seat from his home state of Tachira.
But the following year, the new President Chavez disbanded the Senate and formed a constituent assembly. Perez ran for a seat in the new body but was not elected, and soon afterwards left Venezuela for good.
In Miami he published articles and opinion pieces denouncing Chavez, and also stated his desire to spend his remaining days in Venezuela, having been weakened by two strokes in 2003 and 2004.
Perez's name hit the headlines just a few weeks ago when Venezuelan historian Agustin Blanco Munoz published a book based on a series of interviews with the former president.
In these interviews, Perez referred to Chavez as a "Satan" for what he said was "grabbing the properties" of Venezuelan citizens.
In 2005, Caracas asked Washington to extradite Perez on charges related to the deaths during the Caracazo.
Date created : 2010-12-26