More than 24 hours after a fierce battle brought an end to the Oscar Perez saga, Minister of the Interior Nestor Reverol confirmed the deaths of the renegade officer and six of his companions in their safe out located in El Junquito, Caracas’ westernmost parish. In a press conference that lasted only 15 minutes, Reverol repeatedly called Perez and his unit “terrorists” and provided few details on the operation that rocked El Junquito yesterday and claimed nine lives.
Reverol provided names for six of the seven casualties from Perez’s group:
- Oscar Alberto Perez
- Daniel Enrique Soto Torres
- Abraham Israel Agostini Agostini
- Jose Alejandro Diaz Pimentel
- Jairo Lugo
- Abraham Lugo
- An unnamed female
Local media are reporting the woman’s name to be Lisbeth Andreina Ramirez Mantilla, citing sources at the Bello Monte morgue where her body is being held.
Below, a from the Ministry of the Interior twitter account showing Perez and his deceased companions and calling them “terrorists”:
Reverol also named two police officers killed in the battle as Adrian Domingo Ugarte Ferrera and Nelson Antonio Chirino La Cruz.
The minister provided a list of the items he claims were inside the Perez safe house at the time that it was captured by the authorities. That list includes:
- 2 AK-103 rifles
- 6 AK-103 magazines
- Two “rifles” (no make given)
- One shotgun
- CICPC Police vest
- Military uniforms
- Smoke grenades
- Munitions of various calibres
Reverol’s announcement was accompanied by a tweet from the Ministry of the Interior. The tweet, seen below, includes images allegedly taken at the site after the raid. The middle image appears to show at least 6-7 rifles of various makes. It is not clear why the Ministry’s official list did not make mention of these weapons.
Perez’s Death Confirmed by Leaked Image
Rumours that Perez had been killed in the fighting at the safe house were confirmed in the late evening, when an image showing a man bearing Perez’s resemblance lying dead in the rubble of a home appeared on social media.
The image can be seen below. Perez lies dead in the middle of the screen:
The image confirmed what many had already concluded, given the intensity of the government assault on the safe house. In the video below, a group of officers can be seen firing an rocket propelled grenade at Perez’s position:
The video below was recorded by one of Perez’s companions, Jose Alejandro Pimentel, and shows chaotic scenes inside the home during the battle:
Access to Bello Monte Blocked All Day
The bodies of Perez and his companions are suspected to have been taken to the Bello Monte morgue in Caracas, the only such facility in the city. There was a heavy military and police presence around the morgue throughout the day.
The video below shows National Bolivarian Police officers shepherding journalists away from the morgue:
The video below apparently shows the relatives of Jose Alejandro Pimentel in tears outside of the morgue earlier today while an official explains the details on how to claim the body:
The morgue is refusing to release any information regarding the status of the bodies or the result of their autopsies.
Perez’s Killing Raises Questions, Outrage
Confirmation of Perez’s killing and that of his counterparts raised questions and outrage across the country, as political figures questioned why Perez was not allowed to surrender. Throughout the morning yesterday, Perez uploaded a series of videos on his Instagram account explaining that while he was trying to surrender, the authorities would simply not accept a peaceful end to the standoff.
Former attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz called Perez’s killing an “extrajudicial execution” and lamented the “vile massacre” that took place in El Junquito. Ortega Diaz also contrasted the Perez case to that of Hugo Chavez, who was afforded a trial after surrendering to the authorities following a bloody coup attempt in 1992.
National Assembly deputy Delsa Solorzano, speaking to reporters earlier this morning, was also of the opinion that Perez and his companions had been executed:
Delsa Solorzano: We’ve witnessed what appears to be an extrajudicial killing. If Oscar Perez and the people with him committed crimes, they should have been detained and processed [through the courts].
Jose Vivanco, the director for Latin America for Human Rights Watch, reacted to the news of Perez’s killing by drawing a comparison to similar state behaviour in other dictatorships in the region. Vivanco said:
During the dictatorships in Argentina and Chile, there were fraudulent news reports about terrorists being killed in “confrontations”. Many times, these were in fact executions. It seems that the same thing happened yesterday in Venezuela.
MUD Calls Reverol “Liar” Over Account of Perez Killing
The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) issued an official response to minister Reverol’s press conference today on the events in El Junquito yesterday. In particular, the opposition bloc took issue with assertions made by Reverol to the effect that unnamed opposition politicians have informed the authorities of Perez’s whereabouts.
[The MUD] Responds to the Lies from Reverol and His Government
[The MUD] deplores the irresponsible and false insinuations made by Nestor Reverol, Minister of the Interior, Justice and Peace, which suggested that some opposition leaders had given the government information about the whereabouts of Mr. Oscar Perez, who became the victim of an extrajudicial killing yesterday by the Maduro regime until proven otherwise.
The same liars who say that the minimum wage is enough to live on and that it’s not true that there is no food or medicine in the country now expect people to believe in another one of its farces, which only seeks to desperately cover up the vile and savage execution of a group of Venezuelans. Reverol is the same person who said, for example, that Juan Pablo Pernalete had been the victim of a cattle gun instead of a tear gas canister from the National Guard, a fact which was established by the Attorney General of the Republic, and that the more than 100 people who were killed by official repression during the protests of 2017 simply do no exist.
The whole country knows this character, and his new “official lies” do not surprise anyone.
What the people ask the lying Reverol is the following: Why were armed paramilitaries, the so-called colectivos armados, leading a supposed public order operation? Doesn’t the monopoly on weapons lie with the National Armed Forces in Venezuela? What does the Army think about this? Do soldiers now that they must share the task of providing national security with criminals, something which the Constitution grants them exclusively? How can we explain the presence of Mr. Heiker Vasquez, the leader of the “Tres Raices” colectivo from the 23 de Enero [neighbourhood of Caracas] who also controls the trafficking of food in the area as the head of yesterday’s military operation, as confirmed by Freddy Bernal? Is it true that members from this colectivo were tasked with “exterminating” Mr. Oscar Perez’s group? Why, if the entire country knew from social media that Oscar Perez and his companions were willing to surrender, did we see this ultimate result unfold? Where were the Attorney General’s Office and the People’s Defender?
Since we know, Mr. Reverol only knows how to lie and will never answer the questions that the people want answered, the National Assembly has decided to begin an investigation that will allow us to establish the truth about this unfortunate and condemnable event.
[The MUD], despite the government’s efforts, will continue to stand firmly by its strategy of meeting and overcoming the regime through a constitutional , peaceful, democratic and electoral struggle. Nothing and no one can deviate us from that path, much less a corrupt and decadent government, besieged by immense popular and international pressure, and we will not rest until we achieve a political solution to the painful tragedy that all Venezuelans live.
Oscar Perez’s Twitter Shows Activity, Promises to Continue Struggle
Oscar Perez’s Twitter account, @EquilibrioGV, returned to activity this afternoon for the first time since the firefight that claimed his life yesterday. The account appears to be under the control of members of Perez’s resistance organization, the Movimiento Equilibrio Nacional [National Equilibrium Movement], and tweeted out several defiant messages earlier today.
The images–the authenticity of which cannot be verified–appear to show messages from Perez’s account explaining that Perez’s assertions that he wanted to surrender to the authorities were merely a ploy to turn public opinion against the regime.
In a series of messages, the account refuted as false images that had been spreading on social media through regime channels allegedly showing direct messages sent from that account to security forces during yesterday’s battle in El Junquito.
Below, the tweets in chronological order along with my translation:
We totally refute the screenshot that the NarcoRegime has shown of one of our alleged “direct messages” from the @EquilibrioGV and #OscarOmShanti accounts
EVERYTHING THEY SHOW IS FALSE
We want to clarify before the national and international community that the accounts @OscarOmShanti [Oscar Perez’s personal account] @EquilibrioGV [His organizational account] and @PimentelVZLA [Perez’s right hand man’s account] are in the hands of the National Equilibrium Movement for Venezuela.
We refute the NarcoCommunist murderer Nestor Reverol [the Minister of the Interior, Justice and Peace] as well as a the regime’s entire propaganda apparatus for manipulating and creating this false evidence that seeks to soil the name of Oscar Perez and the GLORIOUS PATRIOTS. [The red text reads: FALSE INFORMATION FALSE FLAG]
These messages were never sent from any account belonging to any member of the National Equilibrium Movement, and they are just a disgusting move by the MURDEROUS NARCO REGIME in Venezuela that seeks to create division and plant false evidence against our Movement and our warriors
This account, as well as those belonging to the NATIONAL EQUILIBRIUM MOVEMENT (@OscarOmShanti @EquilibrioGV @PimentelVZLA) are under the full operation and control of our team (NATIONAL EQUILIBRIUM)
We are active today more than ever all around the country, seeking to achieve the objective that we’ve set out: republican independence #MovEquilibrioNacional
At the same time, we call on the population to not repeat or spread trending news, rumours, unfounded [news] from the regime’s propaganda apparatus which seeks to defame and destroy everything that we have achieved in our patriotic struggle
We reiterate our commitment today more than ever with all of the VENEZUELAN people, affirm that we are completely operational, focused on achieving our objectives to see a FREE VENEZUELA.
TODAY MORE THAN EVER LIBERTY FOREVER
The last in the string of messages was a call on Venezuelans to move to the Bello Monte morgue in Caracas to demand access to the bodies of Perez and his companions:
We call [on people] to go to the Bello Monte morgue to demand the bodies of Our Warriors. Let’s support their families
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