Venezuelan helicopter pilot appears in video, vows to keep fighting

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 05, 2017 7:51 AM

By Diego Oré

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan police officer Oscar Perez, who staged a helicopter attack on government buildings in Caracas last week, appeared in an internet video early on Wednesday vowing to continue fighting for the "liberation" of his country.

"Once again we are in Caracas, ready and willing to continue our struggle for the liberation of our country," Perez said in a video seen on YouTube, wearing a military uniform and wool cap, with a Venezuelan flag and a rifle behind him.

Perez hijacked a helicopter with an unidentified companion and flew through the city on June 27 with a banner that read "Freedom" and later opened fired and dropped grenades on the Interior Ministry and Supreme Court without causing any deaths or injuries.

President Nicolas Maduro called the attack a terrorist assault to overthrow his government.

But many of his critics doubt the official version of the events, with some suggesting it may have been staged to divert attention from the country's economic and political crises.

Perez said the attack was "perfectly achieved" with no collateral damage "because it was planned, because we are not murderers like you, Mr. Nicolas Maduro."

Perez staged an "emergency landing" on the Caribbean coast near Caracas following the attack, he said in the video, and had returned to the capital after hiking through the mountains that separate the two. Word of the video spread on social media.

The Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Perez, who has portrayed himself as a James Bond-cum-Rambo figure on social media, is also a film actor who produced and starred in a 2015 movie about the rescue of a kidnapped businessman.

Venezuela's opposition has been staging demonstrations against Maduro for three months, saying he has created a dictatorship in the OPEC nation and destroyed the country's economy. At least 90 people have been killed in the protests.

They say Maduro is seeking to consolidate control over the country through a constituent assembly, a constitutional superbody that will be elected at the end of July. The opposition has promised to boycott the vote, which it says is rigged in favor of the ruling Socialist Party.

"We are fully sure of what we are doing and if we must give up our lives, we will hand them over to the people," Perez said in the video. "If this constituent assembly takes place, there will be no Venezuela."

(Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)