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Venezuelans Pay Respects as Body of Perez Returns


Supporters surround coffin of former President Carlos Andres Perez in Caracas, Venezuela, Oct. 4, 2011.

Supporters surround coffin of former President Carlos Andres Perez in Caracas, Venezuela, Oct. 4, 2011.

Venezuelans have gathered in Caracas to pay their last respects to former President Carlos Andres Perez, one day after his body was returned from the U.S. following a lengthy legal battle over his final resting place.

On Wednesday, supporters gathered at the headquarters of Perez's Democratic Action Party, where he will lie in state until his funeral Thursday.

Video clip: Venezuelans Mourn Former President Carlos Perez

Perez, who died in Miami on 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 Perez, and his longtime companion, Cecelia Matos.

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

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

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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