CARACAS, Venezuela – A bitter dispute between relatives of former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez has derailed a plan to send his body from Miami to Venezuela, leaving the former leader's burial in limbo.
Perez's family in Caracas said in a statement Monday that the plan to fly the body to the capital was canceled because Perez's longtime companion and daughters in the United States said through their lawyers that they had never agreed to transferring his remains to Venezuela. That decision broke with an apparent agreement reached between relatives in the U.S. and Venezuela last week for the body to be buried in Caracas.
"This is in the hands of our lawyers now," Perez's daughter Maria Francia Perez Matos told The Associated Press by telephone from Miami on Tuesday. She said her family will comment further on the matter at the appropriate time.
A planned burial was halted in Miami last week after the former president's estranged wife in Caracas, Blanca Rodriguez de Perez, persuaded a court in Miami to issue an order stopping it. Relatives on both sides said then that they would resolve the issue and agree on when the body would be sent to Venezuela.
Perez died on Dec. 25 at age 88 in Miami, where he had lived for much of the past decade with his longtime companion and former secretary Cecilia Matos, with whom he had two daughters. Perez's family in the U.S. had maintained before last week's funeral that he had wanted to be buried in Venezuela only when President Hugo Chavez is no longer in power.
Rodriguez, who lives in Venezuela, has maintained she has the right to decide what happened to Perez's body because, while the two were separated, they never legally divorced.
One of his daughters in Caracas, Carolina Perez, told the Venezuelan television channel Globovision on Monday night that her family is confused by the decision of Perez's relatives in the U.S., and called it a painful situation for the family.
"What we want is for our father to come here to Venezuela ... for his soul to rest in peace here, in the country in which he fought all his life," she said.
Meanwhile, Perez's embalmed body remained in a funeral home in Miami, said grandson Gabriel Perez, who had planned to help coordinate the transfer to Caracas.
"We have no other recourse than to continue in court" and dispute the matter, Perez told The Associated Press by telephone from London, where he lives.
He said Perez's relatives had been trying to negotiate with Matos and her daughters, but "it didn't work."
Matos and her daughters could not immediately be reached for comment.
Associated Press writer Gisela Salomon, in Miami, contributed to this report.