Robert Serra was a rising star in Venezuela’s ruling socialist party, a young “Chavista” lawmaker for whom great things were predicted. But in what officials described as a carefully planned murder with no obvious suspects, he was killed in his home this week.
“This is not a random incident committed by common criminals, this is an intentional homicide, planned and executed with great precision,” said Venezuela’s Interior and Justice Minister, Rodriguez Torres, after Mr Serra’s brutal murder on Wednesday, the latest high-profile violent death in a country blighted by violent crime.
Mr Serra, 27, and Maria Herrera – who officials said was the politician’s “companion” – were killed at his home in the impoverished La Pastora neighbourhood of the capital, Caracas. They died of haemorrhagic shock after being stabbed with a “sharp, penetrating weapon”, Mr Torres added.
A trained lawyer, Mr Serra was elected to Congress in 2010 as a member of the ruling United Socialist Party after gaining prominence organising young people to counter student protests in 2007. He was an avowed “Chavista” – a supporter of the left-wing ideology of the late former president, Hugo Chavez. Some had criticised his aggressive political style and ties with radical fringe groups. Local media said two of his escorts had been killed in recent years.
Neighbours discovered his body and that of Ms Herrera. Mireya Midolo said her son had gone to check after seeing two large, white motorcycles with their motors running in front of the house, and its doors open. “There was no sound of the door being forced, or cries,” she said, adding that she was surprised the bodyguards who often accompanied Mr Serra were not present that night.
The killings retrain the spotlight on Venezuela, which has one of the world’s highest murder rates. Its official homicide rate last year was 39 per 100,000 people, but non-government organisations put the figure at nearly twice that for a total of 24,000 deaths. In January, Monica Spear, soap-opera star and former Miss Venezuela, was murdered alongside her former husband.
President Nicolas Maduro has said curbing violent crime is his priority. This week, the government launched a voluntary disarmament programme, but critics say its anti-crime plans do not tackle root causes, such as impunity for criminals, corrupt courts and complicity by a poorly paid police force.
Both the Socialist government and opposition leaders in politically polarised Venezuela deplored Mr Serra’s death. “Robert, we’ll follow your example, loyal and firm on the road of the revolution you always defended with passion,” Mr Maduro said.