Fugitive Venezuela police pilot pops up at opposition vigil

Oscar Perez

CARACAS, (Reuters) – A rogue Venezuelan police pilot wanted for lobbing grenades and shooting at government buildings appeared briefly at an opposition vigil on Thursday night in a surreal twist to the crisis-worn country’s political drama.

Oscar Perez, 36, who also is an action film star who portrays himself as a James Bond-cum-Rambo figure on social media, surprised opposition supporters by popping up at a Caracas event to mark the deaths of about 100 people related to anti-government unrest that started in April. “We don’t want any more blood on the streets,” he said. Perez, flanked by young men clad in balaclavas and surrounded by cameras, said the opposition must continue protesting.

On Sunday, the opposition will hold an unofficial referendum to let Venezuelans have their say on Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution.

Oscar Perez

Two weeks ago, Perez hijacked a police helicopter flying over Caracas’ center and fired shots at and lobbed grenades on the Interior Ministry and the Supreme Court to fight what he said was a tyrannical government.

Perez has appeared only once since that incident – in a video saying he was in Caracas and keeping up the fight against the government of unpopular President Nicolas Maduro, who has called Perez a terrorist.

Venezuela is undergoing a major crisis as hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent months calling for an end to Maduro’s presidency, amid food shortages, a collapsing currency and soaring inflation.

Perez’s stunt shocked many in Venezuela, although some suggest it was a false flag operation by the government to distract from the crisis.

His Instagram feed shows him riding horseback in combat gear, scuba-diving with rifles and pistols and jumping out of a helicopter with a dog.

Perez produced and starred in a 2015 Venezuelan action movie called “Suspended Death” about the rescue of a kidnapped businessman, which includes scenes of him firing a rifle from a helicopter and emerging from water in scuba gear.

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