Venezuelan 'Chavista' lawmaker Serra, partner killed

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 02, 2014 1:50 AM

By Deisy Buitrago

CARACAS (Reuters) - Robert Serra, a "Chavista" ruling party lawmaker, and his partner were found dead in their home in Caracas late Wednesday, government officials said, in Venezuela's latest high-profile violent crime.

Serra, 27, and Maria Herrera, were found dead at their residence in the impoverished La Pastora neighborhood of the Venezuelan capital.

"They were vilely killed here in their house, a two-storied house, on the ground floor lay the woman and on the upper floor lay Robert Serra," Interior and Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres told state television, stressing the crime would be investigated.

"I call on members of the PSUV (party), on youth in political parties ... to all citizens, to remain calm," Rodriguez said.

One of the youngest members of the National Assembly, Serra was a lawyer with a Master's Degree in criminology, media reports said. He was an avowed 'Chavista' - a supporter of the left-wing political ideology of the country's late former president, Hugo Chavez.

He rose to prominence as a student leader and was seen as one of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela's (PSUV) most promising young leaders.

Critics had rapped his perceived aggressive political style and ties with radical fringe groups.

Serra's death puts the spotlight again on violent crime in Venezuela, which has one of the world's highest homicide rates.

Venezuela's official homicide rate last year was 39 per 100,000 people, but non-government organizations put the figure at nearly twice that for a total of 24,000 deaths.

In January, Monica Spear, a soap-opera star and former Miss Venezuela, was murdered alongside her former husband.

President Nicolas Maduro has said that curbing violent crime is his first priority, and polls consistently show it to be one of Venezuelans' main concerns. This week, the government launched a voluntary disarmament program.

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Critics say the government's anti-crime plans do not tackle the 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 polarized Venezuela deplored Serra's death.

"Robert, we'll follow your example, loyal and firm on the road of the revolution you always defended with passion," President Maduro said on Twitter.

(Additional reporting by Alexandra Ulmer and Corina Pons; Editing by Bernadette Baum)