domingo, diciembre 26, 2010

NYT & Hon. Carlos Andres Perez

Carlos Andrés Pérez, Former President of Venezuela, Dies at 88
By SIMON ROMERO
Published: December 26, 2010


CARACAS, Venezuela — Carlos Andrés Pérez, the former president who tried to make Venezuela a leader of the developing world during a 1970s oil boom only to have his legacy upended in a tumultuous 1989 return to the presidency marked by civil unrest, coup attempts, impeachment and exile, died Saturday in Miami. He was 88.
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Reuters
Former Venezuelan President Carlos Andrés Pérez celebrated his release from house arrest in Caracas in November 1998.
The cause was a heart attack, his daughter, María Francia Pérez, told the news network Globovisión.

Mr. Pérez burst onto the Latin American political scene in the mid-1970s when a quadrupling of oil prices suddenly enriched Venezuela’s government, opening the way for state-led development efforts and an era of glitzy consumption known here as “Venezuela Saudita,” or Saudi Venezuela.

A gifted orator known for his bushy sideburns and flashy suits, Mr. Pérez nationalized Venezuela’s oil industry and the holdings of American iron-ore companies. At the same time, he secured a vocal role for Venezuela in hemispheric affairs, portending, in some ways, President Hugo Chávez’s more assertive foreign policy.

In his first term, Mr. Pérez re-established ties with Cuba and donated a ship to Bolivia, in support of that landlocked nation’s aspiration to regain sea access. He opposed the right-wing Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua and encouraged Omar Torrijos, Panama’s leftist military leader, in his effort to gain sovereignty over the Panama Canal.

Cultivating an independent streak that sometimes put him at odds with Washington, he tried to strengthen the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, of which Venezuela was a founding member. With that goal in mind, he bought a full-page ad in The New York Times in 1974 to publish a letter to President Gerald R. Ford.

“The establishment of OPEC was a direct consequence of the developed countries’ use of a policy of outrageously low prices for our raw materials as a weapon of economic oppression,” Mr. Pérez wrote.

Mr. Pérez was born Oct. 22, 1922, the 11th of 12 children, to parents who were coffee planters in Rubio, a town near the western border with Colombia. He studied law in Caracas and married his first cousin, Blanca Rodríguez, in 1948, with whom he had six children.

He was imprisoned that year for his opposition to a military coup and went into exile in 1949, roaming between Colombia, Cuba and Costa Rica, where he worked as editor of the newspaper La República.

With the establishment of democratic rule here in 1958, he became a rising star in the government of President Rómulo Betancourt. As interior minister, he oversaw a counterinsurgency against Cuban-backed guerrillas. Later, at the helm of the Democratic Action party, he mounted his successful 1973 bid for the presidency.

That five-year term was marked by the rise of new fortunes in the private sector. Business deals were said to be discussed in the mansion belonging to his mistress, Cecilia Matos, who wore a gold replica of an oil tower on a chain around her neck; she said “Papi,” as she called the president, gave her the necklace.

After his departure from office in 1979 and the bust in the 1980s that shook Venezuela’s economy, Mr. Pérez returned to power in 1989 following a campaign that demonized multilateral institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Yet soon after taking office, Mr. Pérez implemented an austerity program that included a $4.5 billion loan from the I.M.F. He announced spending cuts and raised gasoline prices, triggering the chaotic episode in February 1992 called the “Caracazo”: rioting and suppression by the security forces that took hundreds of lives.

Mr. Pérez faced two coup attempts in 1992, the first of which was led by Mr. Chávez, thrusting the then unknown lieutenant colonel into the national spotlight.

Despite the turbulence of his second term, Mr. Pérez still sought an active role for Venezuela in regional politics. He forged warm ties with Jaime Paz Zamora, the former Bolivian president, and sent a plane for Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former Haitian president, when he was ousted in 1991.

Still, resentment here festered against Mr. Pérez, culminating in his impeachment and removal from office in 1993 on corruption charges involving a secretive fund used in part to pay for the bodyguards of Violeta Chamorro, the former Nicaraguan president.

“When the country’s future seemed promising, his power seemed immense; when conditions deteriorated, he was abandoned even by his own supporters,” said Fernando Coronil, a Venezuelan anthropologist at the City University of New York. “His trajectory illustrated the transient nature of power.”

Declaring his innocence, he was locked for 10 weeks in a 12-by-9-foot cell in a prison in one of this city’s slums. Then he was put under house arrest for two years in his hillside estate, where he would receive visitors in a chamber decorated with the framed gold pen he used to sign the papers nationalizing Venezuela’s oil industry.

After Mr. Chávez’s election to the presidency in 1998, Mr. Pérez again went into exile, moving to the Dominican Republic, where he faced accusations from officials here of conspiring to oust Mr. Chávez. In 2003, Venezuela temporarily cut oil exports to the Dominican Republic, forcing Mr. Pérez to move to the United States, where he eventually settled with Ms. Matos, with whom he had two daughters.

From the United States, he faced extradition proceedings in connection to his crackdown during the 1989 riots. Venezuelan prosecutors claimed that security forces unleashed unnecessary force on rioters.

Despite his deteriorating health in recent years, Mr. Pérez remained a vocal critic of Mr. Chávez, describing his government as “illegitimate.” He chastised the president for what he described as “unbecoming behavior” at a 2007 political summit in Chile during which King Juan Carlos of Spain publicly told Mr. Chávez, “Why don’t you shut up?”

State media here quietly took note of Mr. Pérez’s death. In a brief article which refrained from calling Mr. Chávez’s 1992 military revolt an attempted coup, the official news agency said, “Eighteen years have passed since the civilian-military rebellion that occurred as an expression of discontent during the second government of then President Pérez.”