Santa Elena de Uairen, October 8th, 2014. (Venezuelanalysis.com)- Yesterday the Venezuelan National Assembly swore in grassroots leader Juan Contreras to assume to vacant post of the late deputy Robert Serra, who was stabbed to death alongside his partner Maria Herrera in their Caracas home last Wednesday. Legislators also voted in favor of banning Colombian ex-president Alvaro Uribe from entering Venezuela, in response to president Nicolas Maduro’s accusation that Uribe is linked to the assassination of Serra.
On Monday thousands of Venezuelans flooded the streets of Caracas to mourn the 27 year old pro-government parliamentarian and his partner during their funeral procession. On Sunday the male winner of an annual Caracas marathon made headlines after crossing the finish line with a poster of Robert Serra in his hands.
Yesterday, in a ceremony at the presidential palace Miraflores, Maduro named the Youth of the Homeland Mission, which aims to address regions of extreme poverty through youth leadership and employment initiatives, after the late deputy Serra.
The newly appointed Juan Contreras, a well-known organizer from the barrio and political hotbed 23 de Enero, said in an interview on Tuesday, “I never thought that I would have to take this post in this way, in the midst of the pain and the sadness caused by the loss of a good friend,” while adding, “from this point onward, what matters is making the Revolution irreversible, just as Robert said last week.”
Contreras was elected to assembly as an alternate in 2010 by popular vote.
Persona Non Grata
Government officials and Venezuelans alike have rallied in a collective cry for justice, agreeing that the murder was not merely an act of violence but a premeditated and politically-motivated assassination.
Serra was a lead advocate for the investigation being carried out against right-wing extremist Lorent Saleh, who appears in leaked videos calling for the “social cleansing” of chavistas, through the bombing of public institutions and a hit list of at least 20 unnamed politicians. Saleh has documented ties to Colombian paramilitaries and, reportedly, Uribe himself.
In the aftermath of Serra and Herrera’s deaths, Maduro reacted by saying the perpetrators belonged to a “band of criminals that ex-President Alvaro Uribe has directed all of his life,” and said the assassination orders came from international terrorist groups based in Colombia and Miami.
Former Colombian president and current director of the Union of South American States (UNASUR), Ernesto Samper, also expressed concern that the crime reflected “infiltration of Colombian paramilitarism” in Venezuela.
Interior and Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres listed on a Tuesday radio program all the terrorist activities taken place against Venezuelan political actors since 2002, saying “incidentally, that’s the same year Uribe won the elections.”
The National Assembly met yesterday to discuss the case and other issues. During the meeting, assembly president Diosdado Cabello claimed that masterminds of the crime have already been identified, though gave no further details. Shortly after, a group of parliamentarians put forth a petition to the assembly asking that Uribe “be tried for crimes against humanity … and terrorism not only against Venezuela but … throughout Latin America.”
After a vote, Uribe was declared a persona non grata in Venezuela, which is to say, the former Colombian president is no longer welcome on Venezuelan soil.
No Ordinary Crime
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, among other opposition leaders, has expressed doubt that the murder had political motives, pointing instead to the country’s high crime rates and blaming the government for what he believes to be proof of evident failures in civil security.
Minister Rodriguez Torres asserted that Serra’s briefcase, laptop and other valuables were not removed from his home, indicating that the crime can hardly be considered a common robbery.
“We're not dealing with unfortunate events committed by a common criminal,” Rodriguez Torres said. “We are dealing with an intentional murder, planned and executed with great precision.”
In 2012, Serra’s former bodyguard, Alexis Barreto, 25, was shot dead under equally suspicious circumstances, considering the young man appeared to have left the office to take a walk with someone of confidence. Though Barreto was shot cleanly through the back of the neck, no sign of a struggle was recorded, and his wallet and cell phone were left untouched.
At the time the victim’s mother, Irene Venezuela, told reporters she believed the perpetrator had to be someone who worked with her son.
In Serra’s case, his body showed dozens of stab wounds and signs of torture, but according to official reports, there was no sign of a forced entry neither into the apartment building nor into the deputy’s home, indicating the assailant was someone Serra trusted.
Social media exploded with responses from both opposing political sectors, as a (now proven) false quote of Serra’s was passed around opposition presenting the slain legislator as scornful in his response to the murder of Venezuelan actress Monica Spear, who was killed last year in a highway robbery.
Political analyst Luis Vicente Leon made a public call for peace in a widely circulated article, in which we called upon social media users to check themselves.
“Just because the assassinated was chavista,” Vicente Leon wrote, does not justify the kind of comments found on twitter, insinuating that he got what he deserved. However, the analyst equally condemned informal accusations on behalf of the government and asked that the investigative process be respected.
“It’s natural that during the void of information typical to the beginnings of criminal investigations, different sectors of society will hypothesize to fill that void,” Vicente Leon admitted, “but it’s one thing to propose scenarios and it’s quite another to simply place blame, involving names without evidence, or on the opposite side, to downplay the gravity of such a monstrous act…”
Communes minister Elias Jaua reiterated the article’s call for peace, saying that in spite of some irreverent responses from opposition followers, it’s unwise to manipulate these moments to justify further polarization. “There are tens of thousands of men and women who do not share the path of fascism [among the opposition], who do not ridicule the death of Robert and Maria, who feel hurt and concern just like us, above all for the future of their sons and daughters.”
Jaua said the murder was strategic, particularly in the way it “paved the way for dangerous days… where rage and a desire for vengeance is stirred against the others.”
“While constitutional justice should be done for those materially and intellectually responsible for this crime,” Jaua said, “the greatest justice will be a triumphant revolution, and our victory will be peace.”