Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has asserted that Colombian paramilitary groups were behind the murder of a young rising star in his party earlier this month, but questions remain about the official version of events.
Socialist Party (PSUV) lawmaker Robert Serra’s murder last month kicked off a wave of speculation over the motives behind the crime. The government has labeled the killing a “terrorist act” and insinuated that Serra been killed by right-wing elements, while some analysts (see InSight Crime, The Economist) have questioned whether left-wing collectives could be behind his death.
In recent days, authorities have arrested two suspects in the case, and President Maduro has made multiple promises to provide evidence of an opposition plot.
Last night he finally delivered. As Ultimas Noticias reports, Maduro presented security camera footage detailing the involvement of eight suspects in the murder. These included Serra’s bodyguard and a criminal ring with alleged ties to neighboring Colombia. The “intellectual author” of the murder, according to Maduro, was an unnamed “Colombian paramilitary.”
Despite the presentation of suspects involved in the murder, the official explanation of Serra’s death is light on details about a potential motive. Maduro also said that authorities had discovered related plans to assassinate National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello and Education Minister Hector Rodriguez, but he was vague about the overall plot.
So far the government seems to be satisfied with publicly chalking up Serra’s murder to the dark forces of “Colombian paramilitarism” and leaving it at that, at least for the moment. The AP notes that the president doubled down on claims that former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has links to groups conspiring against his government, though he did not provide any evidence.
An alternate version of the murder was put forward by leading pro-opposition newspaper El Nacional on Tuesday, in an investigation that cited anonymous sources familiar with the case. The paper also claimed that Serra had been betrayed by his bodyguard, but asserted that the incident was in fact a planned robbery gone awry. As proof, El Nacional reported that the assailants forced Serra to open up a safe containing an unspecified amount of dollars and two automatic rifles. Here the narrative falls apart, however, as the report claims Serra was stabbed “for unknown reasons,” and his female assistant was killed to silence any witnesses.
Obviously, both of these narratives are problematic. But considering the polarization of the country’s political and media landscapes, the full truth seems unlikely to emerge anytime soon.
- Also on Venezuela, David Smilde and Hugo Perez Hernaiz profile recent remarks by members of the opposition who have signaled their willingness to renew dialogue with the government, though the two note that the Maduro administration’s response to the Serra murder has likely hurt the potential for talks to restart anytime soon.
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