Caracas, October 1, 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Thousands took to the streets of the Venezuelan capital on Thursday, braving severe heat and humidity to commemorate the life of the slain 27 year-old socialist parliamentarian Robert Serra on the one year anniversary of his assassination.
Serra was murdered together with his comrade Maria Herrera in their Caracas residence on the night of October 1, 2014 in a conspiracy allegedly involving several police officers and his chief bodyguard.
Organized by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and diverse grassroots collectives, the youth-led march began at the National University of the Arts in downtown Caracas, continuing on amid lively chanting and dancing to the country’s National Assembly.
“Today we are paying tribute to Robert Serra, a comrade in the struggle who beyond his words showed in his deeds, his praxis, what it means to be a revolutionary,” explained Alexander Bustillos of the Ciudad Caribia-based Lautaro collective.
As the youngest member of the National Assembly and a rising figure within Chavismo, Serra holds an iconic place in the hearts of much of Venezuela’s youth.
“Robert Serra didn’t die, he’s still with us young people as we continue the struggle for the motherland, come what may in the battle for December 6 [parliamentary elections],” affirms fifteen year-old Rixiobelika Soto, a member of the Robert Serra Movement from Ciudad Bolivar.
Born in the western city of Maracaibo, Serra was active in the PSUV youth wing, going on to successfully run for parliament in 2010 at the age of 23. During his tenure, the young lawyer played a leading role in efforts to take on violent crime as well as other key social initiatives.
For Jose Vasquez and his fellow PSUV youth activists, Robert Serra remains an example for organizing among the people and building power from the ground up.
“Robert taught us to be leaders in the streets, among the poor people of our barrios–he comes from there,” 23 year-old Vasquez told venezuelanalysis.com.
“Following Robert, we continue to work among the communities, showing them that we are building Venezuelan socialism.”
“The Killers of Robert Serra Walk Free”
The march was also animated by calls for those behind the assassination to be brought to justice, although the identity of the culprits remains disputed.
The Venezuelan government under President Nicolas Maduro has pointed the finger at Colombia-based paramilitary groups, naming ultra right Colombian ex-president Alvaro Uribe as a possible intellectual culprit.
Eleven men have been charged for their role in the crime, including various police officials, Serra’s chief bodyguard, as well as the alleged Colombian-Venezuelan paramilitary Leiver Padilla, who was extradited from Colombia in June, accused of leading the eight-man team that assassinated the young legislator.
However, some hold Venezuelan criminal groups responsible for the murder, pointing to ex-members of Caracas’ Metropolitan Police force, infamous for its corruption and long history of brutal repression in the decades prior to its dissolution under President Hugo Chávez.
“They [the authorities] should listen to the people of the barrio, because the barrio is conscious that the killers of Robert Serra walk free, disguised as chavistas,” says Angela Fernandez, 35, of the Guardians of the Liberator collective.
“They [the Metropolitan police] continue to function under the cover of “colectivos”, smearing the name of the colectivos of Chávez– agricultural, cultural, etc.–, doing the same thing they did under the Fourth Republic with impunity, and there is much suspicion among the people that they are responsible for the assassination of our Robert”, she added, referring to the phenomenon of para-police groups which have come under increasing scrutiny by Venezuelan criminologists.
Elections on the Horizon
Thursday’s march concluded at the door of the National Assembly, where a special session was held with Serra’s family in honor of the slain legislator.
“The Venezuelan right is behind the death of Robert Serra, with its complicit silence,” declared PSUV leader and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, reiterating allegations that the opposition had a hand in the assassination.
Serra was also honored by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro during a special forum that evening.
“Social work from the base is the best homage to Robert,” the head of state declared, adding that he had approved the plan “Venezuela Youth Zones” to install 4,950 free wifi networks in youth spaces, missions, and sports centers across the country.
Maduro insisted that following the example of Serra, Chavismo would deal a blow to the rightwing assassins of the young lawmaker in the parliamentary of elections of December 6th, which he promises “will be a victory of the people and the revolution”.