CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Two people killed alongside a rebel police officer in a violent shootout with Venezuelan security forces have been buried by government officials despite protests from relatives, an opposition lawmaker said Saturday.
The body of former officer Oscar Perez and four others remained in government control as family members pushed to take custody of the corpses and conduct their own investigation, politician Delsa Solorzano said.
All seven died Monday fighting against police and soldiers in a small mountain community outside of Caracas, ending a manhunt for Perez that began after he led a helicopter attack on government buildings in June and called for an uprising against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
At the morgue where his body was being held, dozens of protesters, some wearing masks on their faces and throwing stones at national guardsmen, shouted “Oscar Perez lives” and demanded that officials give Perez’s corpse to his relatives. National guard officers fired rubber bullets to disperse them.
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A former police officer, action-movie star and pilot, Perez leaped into the spotlight when he stole a helicopter and used it to lob grenades and fire at two government buildings in Caracas last year. Nobody was killed in the attack, but Perez, 36, had been one of Venezuela’s most wanted fugitives ever since, periodically posting videos on Instagram calling upon Venezuelans to take to the streets.
Security forces tracked down Perez and his renegade band and engaged in the shootout.
With blood running across his face, Perez posted videos on Instagram, shouting over a spray of gunfire that his band wished to surrender.
But security forces appeared to be intent on killing him and six others, including a woman.
“I want to ask Venezuela not to lose heart — fight, take to the streets,” he said in a video. “It is time for us to be free, and only you have the power now.”
Officials blamed the “terrorist cell” for prompting the violence that also left two police officers dead.
Perez’s death certificate obtained by relatives says he died from a gunshot wound to the head, said Solorzano, a member of the opposition-controlled national assembly, which has launched its own investigation.
The clash has drawn criticism from international human rights group such as Amnesty International, which condemned Perez’s death as an unlawful execution.
Jose Miguel Vivanco of New York-based Human Rights Watch said Venezuelan officials wish to cover up what happened. He said the “massacre” provides “clear evidence of how brutal and merciless Maduro’s dictatorship can be.”
The bodies of the four other members of the rebel group have been flown to various parts of the country for burial, opposition lawmaker Adriana Pichardo told local media.