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Venezuelan ex-president Perez dies

Former Venezuela president Carlos Andres Perez, whose popularity soared with his country's oil-based economy but who later faced riots, a severe economic downturn and impeachment, has died in Miami.

The daughter of 88-year-old Mr Perez, Maria Francia Perez, said her father had died in a Miami hospital.

"He was happy and well when he awoke this morning. Suddenly he had difficulty breathing," she told The Associated Press.

She said he was taken to a Miami hospital, where he died. She told the Venezuelan television channel Globovision he had died of a heart attack.

In the final years of his life, Mr Perez came to personify the old guard Venezuelan political establishment bitterly opposed by current President Hugo Chavez. Mr Perez survived two coup attempts in 1992, the first of which was led by Mr Chavez, who was then a young army lieutenant colonel.

In recent years, Mr Perez lived in Miami while the Venezuelan government demanded he be turned over to stand trail for his role in putting down bloody 1989 riots. Mr Perez - who governed Venezuela from 1974-79 and again from 1989-93 - denied wrongdoing.

In his first term, he won praise by nationalising Venezuela's oil industry, paying off foreign oil companies and then capitalising on a period of prosperity that allowed his government to build subway lines, bankroll new social programs and set up state-run companies in areas from steel to electricity.

He became one of Latin America's most prominent political leaders, popularly known after his initials as CAP.

Venezuelans elected him for a second time in 1988, hoping for a return to good times after a decade of economic decline. But his popularity plunged when he tried to push through an economic austerity program including increasing the subsidised prices of gasoline, and anger among the poor boiled over in the 1989 riots.

In 2010, Venezuela's Supreme Court cleared the way for Mr Chavez's government to request Mr Perez's extradition from the United States. Prosecutors accused Mr Perez of ordering a harsh crackdown during the unrest, when rights activists say many were shot indiscriminately by security forces.

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