Wife, Mistress Fight Over Dead President

Illustration for article titled Wife, Mistress Fight Over Dead President

The former president of Venezuela has been dead six months, and his wife and mistress are still fighting over where to bury him. An added complicating factor: Hugo Chavez.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Carlos Andrés Pérez was married to Blanca Rodríguez de Pérez throughout his time as president, which ended in 1993. He was, in fact, still married to her at the time of his death, but he lived in Miami with his longtime mistress, Cecilia Matos. Now his widow wants to bury him in Venezuela, but Matos says he must be buried in Florida. The reason: she says he didn't want to be buried in Venezuela as long as it was controlled by his "nemesis," Hugo Chavez. Chavez was none too complimentary when Pérez died in December — he said, "May he rest in peace. But with him... may the form of politics that he personified rest in peace and leave here forever." Also, "We send his relatives our regrets, our regrets, and our wish that that old, egotistical.. way of doing politics never again returns to Venezuela." However, Chavez did say Pérez's family "had every right" to bury him in Venezuela.

His widow wants to exercise that right, and under Venezuelan law, she's the one who gets to decide — unless there's compelling evidence that the deceased had other wishes. That's what Matos is trying to prove. But beyond the legal nitty-gritty, the story is also an illustration of the complexities of presidential philandering. Because Pérez's burial will be big news in Venezuela, the decision about which woman gets her way will have symbolic importance. Said Mrs. Pérez's children in a statement, "Ms. Matos is desperate for a recognition that she does not deserve." Getting to pick where to bury Pérez would give Matos's relationship with him an official character it never received in law. And while Mrs. Pérez appears to have tolerated this relationship while it was unofficial — it was apparently an "open secret" in Venezuela — this is apparently a bridge too far.


One Dead President, One Wife, One Mistress, One Ugly Court Fight [WSJ]

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If the law is that the spouse of the decedent gets to pick the burial location unless the decedent clearly indicated a preference, then to cast this as "which woman will get her way" is inaccurate, unless the writer is implying the mistress is lying.