A lawmaker has been killed in Venezuela's latest high-profile violent crime. Robert Serra and his partner, Maria Herrera, were found dead in their home in the La Pastora neighborhood of the capital, Caracas.
Robert Serra, a rising star in the ruling United Venezuelan Socialist Party, and his partner, Maria Herrera, were found murdered late Wednesday in their home in the Caracas neighborhood of La Pastora in the capital's Libertador district. Ahead of the murders, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had called beating violent crime his first priority, and polls consistently show it as one of citizens' main concerns.
"They were vilely killed here in their house," Interior and Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres told Venezuelan state television. "We will investigate this fully to find those responsible for this monstrosity," Rodriguez added.
The Venezuelan news website Ultimas Noticias reported that Serra's body showed signs of torture.
'Loyal and firm'
Prolific on the social-networking site Twitter - his last post came just hours before he died - Serra was also an avowed Chavista, or follower of the sociopolitical philosophy put forth by President Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer in office last year.
Perhaps it's fitting, then, that the current president, Chavez's democratically elected hand-picked successor, took to the medium to mourn the loss of the young lawmaker: "Robert, we'll follow your example, loyal and firm on the road of the revolution that you always defended with passion," Nicolas Maduro wrote on Twitter.
The 27-year-old Serra - according to reports, Venezuela's youngest lawmaker - had studied criminology, and his death again puts the spotlight on one of the world's highest homicide rates. Venezuela's official homicide rate last year ran to 39 per 100,000 inhabitants, but non-governmental organizations put the figure at nearly twice that, for a total of 24,000 deaths.
Earlier this week, Venezuela's government launched a voluntary disarmament program. However, critics say the plans do not tackle root causes such as entrenched poverty, impunity for criminals, corrupt courts and complicity by poorly paid police.
mkg/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)