Venezuelan government officials on Tuesday confirmed the death of a former police officer turned rebel, following a shootout in a village outside of Caracas.
Interior Minister Néstor Reverol said Óscar Pérez and six others were killed in Monday’s deadly assault that included rocket launchers and grenades. He added that the rebel group's hideout was unveiled as a result of a Pérez interview with CNN en Español.
“With the progressive use of special forces, unfortunately, we had to neutralize seven terrorists of this cell who are: Daniel Soto, Abraham Lugo, José Alejandro Díaz Pimentel, Óscar Pérez, Jairo Ramos, Abraham Agostino and a woman yet to be identified,” announced Reverol.
“The interview that a channel did helped in the investigation that yesterday took us to kilometer 16 sector Araguaney where this terrorist cell was,” he said. “This heavily armed terrorist group maliciously started a confrontation, generating two fatal victims of the security force and eight injured PNB (national police) officers during a strong confrontation.”
CNN did not immediately comment on the government’s claim.
In a broadcast last week, Pérez was interviewed by CNN journalist Fernando del Rincón.
The 36-year-old Pérez rose to notoriety in July 2017 when, amid anti-government protests that left more than 100 dead in Venezuela, he launched several grenades from a stolen police helicopter aimed at two government buildings in Caracas.
No one was injured and the building suffered minor damage, but his name became known to the people — and to authorities. He had since been a fugitive.
Pérez had used social media to call on Venezuelans to rise up against the Nicolás Maduro government. Over the past six months, he posted several videos stating that his fight was for his children and “all the children” of Venezuela.
During Tuesday’s presentation of the incident, Reverol accused groups abroad of financing Pérez and his organizations so that they could carry out rebellious actions against the government.
In the house where Monday’s assault took place, two AK-103 rifles, two rifles, and a shotgun were found, as well as bullets and military uniforms, the minister said. Reverol insisted that government forces opened fire on the insurgents only after they started shooting.
The government version, however, contrasts with video snippets posted on social media on Monday during the alleged confrontation, where Pérez and several of his companions repeatedly shouted to stop firing because they wanted to surrender to avoid a bloodshed.
In addition to being a trained officer, Pérez was an actor, pilot and dog trainer.
Pérez appeared in online videos in December showing him and a small armed band taking over a small military outpost and smashing a portrait of Maduro with his foot.
Pérez and the assailants berated several detained guardsmen for doing nothing to help their fellow citizens suffering from hunger. Maduro responded in the following days, vowing to meet Pérez with bullets.
This article was supplemented with information from The Associated Press and other el Nuevo Herald wire services.
Follow Antonio María Delgado on Twitter:@DelgadoAntonioM