País de Los Muertos (The Country of the Dead)
Venezuela has a homicide rate of 79 killings per 100,000 inhabitants (a rate that has quadrupled in the past fifteen years), and yet the murder of Robert Serra on October 1st has seized the attention of the entire country. An incredibly popular rising parliamentarian, Mr. Serra was only 27 years old when he and his female assistant were stabbed to death in his Caracas home.
The morning after Mr. Serra’s death, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, the then Minister of the Popular Power for Interior, Justice, and Peace addressed the people of Venezuela, blatantly labeling the killing an “assassinat[ion].” While an assassination would seem the likely cause in most countries, however, as an opposition party member pointed out in a tweet, “50 Venezuelans are killed each day” – suggesting that the murder was not a targeted assassination, but a killing that took place during what was believed to be a botched robbery. Despite this possibility, Mr. Torres’ uncompromising language has left no room for doubt about the circumstances of Mr. Serra’s death. What could make the government he represents so sure this was an assassination? More importantly, how was the government able to come to that conclusion so quickly?
It’s true that members of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Mr. Serra’s party, have been the targets of suspicious murders before. In April of this year, a prominent leader of the party, Eliecer Otaiza, was murdered in Caracas under murky circumstances. Two years ago, Mr. Serra’s bodyguard was killed. However, in a country with a homicide rate as high as Venezuela’s, these murders have proved to be a small fraction of the daily killings that take place across the nation and not the products of targeted assassinations. Considering this and the lack of information surrounding the circumstances of the night of Mr. Serra’s murder, there is not much evidence to lend much credibility to the President and his party’s claim that Mr. Serra was killed not as part of a robbery, but as a premeditated murder.
As time has passed, the Venezuelan authorities are no closer to finding a culprit for the killing. The immediate arrest of two “suspects” provided no leads and, despite President Maduro’s insistence that the conclusions of police investigations would supposedly vindicate his claim of an opposition plot to kill Mr. Serra, the police investigation remains inconclusive. Just this week, Venezuelan authorities arrested yet another two suspects, indicating they are no closer to an answer than they were three weeks ago. Yet the government continues to claim that “hired killers” with instructions from the opposition performed the murders.
The apparent stalemate between the firmly held belief of the Venezuelan government and their total lack of evidence is the casualty of an overly politicized investigation. The opposition is attempting to point to the already high homicide rate in Venezuela as the cause of Mr. Serra’s death, shifting all the blame towards the existing government for failing to do more about a problem that affects not only government officials, but the entire nation as a whole. The PSUV and the President’s administration is attempting to shift blame towards the opposition in hopes that the people will rally against any possible challenge to the President in the upcoming election.
Regardless of who the culprit is, the government has spent more time pointing fingers than investigating the crime. But, moreover, the furor over this story ignores the fact that over 50 Venezuelans are murdered every day – they just aren’t famous enough to garner this much media attention.
- Alaina Haworth