For six months, he and a small group of his supporters had been ghosts: The would-be Venezuelan rebels had buzzed Caracas in a stolen helicopter, stolen a cache of presidency weapons, launched blistering statements towards the Maduro regime on social media, and given interviews to journalists earlier than melting away once more.
In January 2018, a small military of Venezuelan safety forces caught as much as them, surrounding the group within the outskirts of Caracas. Perez posted movies of himself in the midst of the firefight; inside hours, he can be lifeless.
His dying kicked off a brand new dispute that has lasted to today: Did Perez die preventing? Or was he captured and executed by authorities officers afraid that the previous police officer was too harmful to let reside?
Earlier than he died at age 36, Perez had been a well-respected police teacher, expert helicopter pilot and actor in a Venezuelan motion movie, however was not recognized outdoors regulation enforcement circles.
That modified on June 2017, when Perez stole a police helicopter and dropped stun grenades over the Supreme Courtroom and Ministry of Inside within the coronary heart of Caracas. He additionally launched a video surrounded by hooded, armed males pledging to overthrow the “tyranny” of Venezuela’s socialist authorities.
“We’re finishing up a deployment by air and land with the only objective to return the democratic energy to the folks and to make sure the legal guidelines to ascertain constitutional order,” he mentioned, calling on the Venezuelan army to stand up and overthrow the ruling socialist authorities.
“Venezuela, we will struggle for liberty,” Perez declared.
The South American nation’s embattled president Nicolas Maduro described Perez and his supporters as terrorists and vowed to hunt them down.
That Perez had come out of seemingly nowhere and had as soon as served within the police made many Venezuelans surprise if his name to revolution was for actual.
Many thought it was unusual that Venezuelan safety forces by no means tried to shoot down Perez as he circled Caracas within the stolen helicopter, regardless of reviews that Maduro’s authorities had hundreds of Russian surface-to-air missiles.
Including to their suspicion was the truth that Venezuela’s formidable intelligence services-known for his or her capacity to trace down authorities opponents in hiding-seemed unable to search out Perez, whilst he posted to Instagram and met with journalists.
However any doubts in regards to the anti-government group got here to finish in January 2018, when 500 army, police and paramilitary troops descended on the hilly parish of El Junquito and surrounded the small nation home the place Perez and his males had been hiding out.
Operation Gedeon, or “La Masacre de El Junquito”
Initially Perez appeared to suppose a deal might be a struck to save lots of his and males’s lives, his social media postings recommend. A video posted on Instagram by Perez confirmed him speaking calmly out the window to an official he known as “main,” attempting to rearrange a give up.
Quickly although a firefight broke out with the federal government forces bombarding the home with machine gun hearth and rocket-propelled grenades.
The Maduro authorities says that Perez’s males opened hearth, killing two cops and critically wounding six others. Opposition members mentioned members of colectivos, pro-government paramilitary models, have been despatched to ensure Perez did not depart the home alive.
A pacesetter of a colectivo was additionally killed within the battle, Venezuelan opposition media reported. There is no such thing as a report of this within the official dying toll.
Within the final video he ever posted, with blood streaming down his face, Perez mentioned the federal government refused to take him alive. “We’re not capturing however they maintain attacking,” Perez mentioned. “We’re negotiating to show ourselves over as a result of there are harmless folks right here, there are civilians however they do not need us to. “The federal government has maintained that the everybody in the home was a terrorist.
The shootout raged for hours till the home the place Perez and his supporters sought refuge was barely standing. Perez, 5 males and one girl who had been inside the home have been killed.
The Venezuelan authorities referred to as the motion Operation Gedeon however the battle turned recognized by one other title, La Masacre de El Junquito, the Junquito bloodbath.
The Venezuelan authorities mentioned Perez had been planning terror assaults after they situated him, and he and his supporters selected to struggle to the dying. “He who would take the highway of terrorism and takes arms towards the republic, towards the folks,” Maduro mentioned in a nationally televised speech after the nine-hour siege ended. “Will likely be given a well timed response from by our armed forces and police. They should not doubt it!”
Now, as relations between the US and Venezuela fray, Perez has been lionized by these attempting to pressure Maduro from energy.
“Oscar gave his life for the liberty of his folks. All of us have hope at present due to nice, nice folks and patriots like Oscar,” US President Donald Trump mentioned whereas talking in Florida in February.
A leaked cache of secret images?
Instantly following Perez’s dying, rumors started to flow into that he had truly been captured alive, and had been executed by authorities forces afraid that he would proceed to threaten the federal government from jail.
In March, Venezuela’s former Legal professional Common Luisa Ortega, who has lived in exile in Colombia since breaking with Maduro, mentioned she had obtained proof that Perez had been captured alive and executed.
She tweeted two graphic photos
, which she mentioned confirmed Perez’s facet and again peppered with gunshot wounds. She claims to own a trove of greater than 300 images and police paperwork in regards to the incident, which says she acquired from sources contained in the safety forces and Venezuelan authorities.
“Thankfully, some sincere women and men who’re contained in the police forces and aren’t in settlement with these actions have helped us, they’ve cooperated so the investigation advances,” Ortega mentioned.
Perez’s mom Aminta has confirmed publicly that she believes the pictures present her son’s physique. “The pictures that flow into at present of my son are so the world can see the horror that we reside in our nation,” she tweeted
Response over Ortega’s accusations has been break up down political traces. Authorities supporters say that Perez was a terrorist who deserved to die, irrespective of the circumstances. Members of Venezuela’s opposition, a lot of whom initially distanced themselves from Perez for utilizing violence, have since embraced him as martyr.
In January, Juan Guaido, the Nationwide Meeting president who has been acknowledged as Venezuela’s “Interim President” by greater than 50 nations, referred to as for a minute of silence within the Nationwide Meeting to mark the primary anniversary of Perez’s dying.
The Venezuelan authorities didn’t reply to Newpaper24’s request for remark about whether or not Perez and his supporters have been executed.
“They weren’t armed,” Ortega instructed Newpaper24 in an interview. “That is confirmed by the bullet wounds, defensive wounds within the palm of their arms and their sides and the variety of impacts every one among their our bodies have.”
Ballistic consultants consulted by Newpaper24 weren’t capable of verify Ortega’s declare primarily based on the images she tweeted. Peter Diaczuk and Angelique Corthals of the John Jay School of Felony Justice in New York mentioned they wanted to see extra pictures of the our bodies to definitively say that Perez and his males have been executed.
The world could quickly get the prospect to study definitively what befell in the course of the gun battle between Perez’s supporters and the federal government forces. Ortega instructed Newpaper24 she is getting ready to ship your entire cache of images and paperwork to the Worldwide Felony Courtroom within the Hague, to analyze the deaths as presumably extrajudicial killings.
Whereas the ICC has not commented publicly on Perez’s dying or Ortega’s accusations, the court docket is finishing up investigations into alleged human rights abuses by the Venezuelan authorities.