A rogue Venezuelan police helicopter pilot leading a resistance against the country’s socialist dictatorship is believed to have been killed after a violent standoff with police on Monday.
Police officer Óscar Pérez reportedly posted videos on his Instagram account with his face covered in blood while he appeared to be under attack by the military as part of a government-sponsored manhunt. Pérez became a household name in Venezuela in June, after using a government helicopter to fly over the nation’s capital waving a banner calling for Venezuelans to use Article 350 of their constitution, which allows for the deposing of any leader who “defies the values, principles, and democratic guarantees or disregards human rights.”
Socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro stands accused of a variety of human rights violations, most involving the use of violence against unarmed, peaceful protesters demanding regime change.
“They’re shooting at us with RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades],” he said. “There are civilians inside here. We said we’d turn ourselves in, but they don’t want to let us turn ourselves in. They want to kill us.”
CNN has since quoted an unnamed high-ranking regime source confirming that Pérez was killed.
In a speech on Monday, Maduro reported on the successful operation while describing Perez as a “fanatic, extremist terrorist.”
“Everyone who embarks on the path of terrorism and takes up arms against the republic—against the people will get their response in due time from our armed forces and from our police forces,” he said. “They should not doubt that.”
Other regime figures, such as Prisons Minister Iris Varela, lambasted Perez as a “coward” who had been “caught like a rat.”
“What a coward now that he’s caught like a rat!” Varela wrote. “Where is the courage he had to attack military units, kill and injure officials and steal weapons?”
"Oscar Perez" Ahora viene el show de la llorantina, ¡qué cobarde cuando se ve atrapado como una rata!, ¿Dónde quedó su valentía para ir a atracar unidades militares, asesinando e hiriendo a funcionarios y robando armamento? A esa banda les sale Nuevo Régimen!!!
— maria iris varela (@irisvarela) January 15, 2018
Pérez’s helicopter action in June, and the lack of damage caused by dropping several grenades from the helicopter, led some commentators to believe the attack might have been a government-managed operation to distract attention away from the country’s worsening economic predicament.
A week after that incident, Pérez uploaded another video pledging to take arms against the regime’s creation of a “national constituent assembly,” an illegal lawmaking body that effectively turned the country into a socialist dictatorship.
Then, last December, Pérez and other members of his militia broke into a military barracks in Miranda state, where they stole weapons, defaced Chavista propaganda, and berated Venezuelan soldiers for their continued support of the regime.
You yourselves are dying of hunger. Why have you not done anything, given you have weapons? Why do you keep protecting these drug-trafficking dictators?” Pérez declared. “Soon we’ll win the war … so that Venezuela can be free.”