Caracas – Thousands of people attended the wake Wednesday for former President Carlos Andres Perez in the Venezuelan capital, including several political leaders that were one-time adversaries.
"You could say that as a man of action he knew success to a sublime degree as well as humiliation, prison, exile ... but you must acknowledge that he never betrayed his principles," Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma said in a speech during the ceremony.
The remains of the former president, who died on Dec. 25, 2010, in Miami at the age of 88, arrived Tuesday night in Venezuela on a commercial flight and were taken to the headquarters of his Democratic Action party in downtown Caracas.
Photos of Perez decorated the walls of the venue and big-screen TVs showed footage of the former president during his political heyday.
"We cried last night, at first as if we were ashamed but then when we saw it was infectious we decided to let it all out," the party's secretary general, Henry Ramos, said.
Ramos said that if Democratic Action members have made any mistake it has been "to not defend with enough courage and fortitude" the party's "spectacular work" in Venezuela.
According to Perez's family, he will be buried Thursday in East Caracas Cemetery after a funeral Mass at the La Chiquinquira Church.
The remains of the former president, who governed Venezuela from 1974-1979 and again from 1989-1993, will be buried nine months after his death due to a lengthy legal dispute between his estranged wife and his mistress over his final resting place.
Long-time mistress Cecilia Matos and the two daughters she bore the erstwhile head of state wanted Perez buried in Miami, where he spent his final years. Blanca Rodriguez de Perez and her children insisted he be laid to rest in Venezuela.
The Miami kin said he did not wish to be buried in Venezuela as long as current President Hugo Chavez - who sought to overthrow Perez in a failed 1992 coup - remained in power.
But his remains were eventually sent back to his homeland after the two sides reached a confidential agreement.
Popular for having nationalized Venezuela's oil industry during his first mandate, Perez was confronted with massive unrest less than a month into his second term, when Caracas residents rebelled against draconian austerity measures imposed at the demand of the International Monetary Fund.
The disturbances known as the "Caracazo" erupted on Feb. 27, 1989, and were harshly put down by the police and army with a toll of between 300 and 1,000 dead.
After thwarting the putsch led by Chavez - then a lieutenant colonel - Perez was forced out of office in 1993 after being convicted on corruption charges he said were politically motivated.