Venezuela Issues Arrest Warrant for Former President Carlos Andrés Peréz

An arrest warrant for former Venezuelan president Carlos Andrés Peréz was issued in connection with the February 1989 police and military killings of hundreds of Venezuelans, following riots against IMF-imposed policies.

Former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez during a party in his honor celebrated in Miami
Former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez during a party in his honor celebrated in Miami
Credit: Conexiones

Caracas, Venezuela, February 25, 2004—Venezuelan State Prosecutor Indira Josefina Mora issued an arrest warrant for former President Carlos Andrés Peréz yesterday.  According to Mora’s statement announcing the arrest warrant for the former President, Peréz is being investigated for his “responsibility in the instruction and implementation of ‘Plan Avila,’ during the events of the Caracazo that occurred in 1989, in which hundreds of people lost their lives.”

Peréz was President of Venezuela from 1974-79, and 1989-93.  He has been living outside of Venezuela in various locations since 1993 when he was impeached on corruption charges, though he has continued to play a peripheral role in Venezuelan politics.

On February 27th, 1989 Peréz announced the “Great Turnaround”, a harsh structural adjustment package increasing prices for basic necessities and gasoline, sparking spontaneous protests and riots.  Though the angry crowds were compared to ‘one of the less civilized tribes of Africa,’ by one pro-government legislator for the widespread destruction of private property, looters reportedly also distributed basic necessities to elderly barrio residents and single-mothers.

Plan Avila,’ was implemented by the National Guard and various police agencies to restore order, and resulted in an official toll of 327 dead and 1,831 wounded.  Independent estimates, however, have placed the death toll as high as 2,000, including the many who remain disappeared.

Once the warrant is approved by Judge María Teresa Gómez Nieves, the Attorney General’s office will attempt to verify Peréz’s location, in order to guarantee his presence at court proceedings, said Mora.

However, in a statement to the press earlier this morning Attorney General Isaías Rodríguez, noted that police have yet to locate the former President.  “We don’t know if he’s in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, or the United States,” said Rodríguez, adding that once Peréz’s location is determined they will deliver the warrant via Interpol.

Perez’s last foray into Venezuelan politics was in an interview with Venezuelan daily El Nacional, given from Miami last July, just a month before Chávez beat a recall attempt against him with 59% of the vote.  In the interview, CAP acknowledged that he is “working to remove Chávez [from power].”  “Violence will allow us to remove him,” said CAP, adding that Chávez “must die like a dog, because he deserves it.”