Former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez, 88, whose popularity soared with Venezuela's oil-based economy but who later faced riots, a severe economic downturn, and impeachment, died of a heart attack in Miami, his family said Saturday.
In his final years, Mr. Perez came to personify the old-guard Venezuelan political establishment bitterly opposed by current President Hugo Chavez. Mr. Perez, who governed from 1974 to 1979 and again from 1989 to 1993, survived two coup attempts in 1992, the first of them led by Chavez, then a young army lieutenant colonel.
In recent years, Mr. Perez lived in Miami while the Venezuelan government demanded that he be turned over to stand trail for his role in putting down bloody 1989 riots. He denied wrongdoing.
In his first term, Mr. Perez won praise by nationalizing Venezuela's oil industry, paying off foreign-oil companies, and then capitalizing on a period of prosperity that allowed his government to build subway lines, bankroll new social programs, and set up state-run companies in areas from steel to electricity.
Venezuelans elected him a second time in 1988. But his popularity plunged when he tried to push through an austerity program including increasing subsidized gas prices, and anger among the poor boiled over in the 1989 riots. Hundreds were killed in the unrest.
In 2010, Venezuela's Supreme Court cleared the way for Chavez's government to request Mr. Perez's extradition from the United States. Prosecutors accused him of ordering a harsh crackdown during the unrest, when rights activists say many were shot indiscriminately by security forces.
Mr. Perez stopped speaking in public after a 2003 stroke, but he maintained he was innocent. - AP