Venezuela: Chavista leader Robert Serra assassinated in likely right-wing terror attack

Robert Serra.

By Ewan Robertson, Merida

October 2, 2014 -- -– Robert Serra (27), a legislator of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and the National Assembly's youngest parliamentarian, was found dead in his Caracas home on October 1.

Authorities confirmed that Serra and his partner Maria Herrera had been murdered in their residence. According to daily newspaper Ultimas Noticias, unofficial reports say that Serra’s body showed signs of torture before he was killed.

The minister of interior affairs Miguel Rodriguez Torres informed state television VTV that an investigation had been launched into the murders.

“They were horribly assassinated in their house … a motive still hasn’t been determined, what we can assure is that there is a specialised team at the site to investigate who is responsible for this act”, he stated, while asking PSUV members to “remain calm”.

Serra was a rising figure within Chavismo, and had been a prominent student leader in the PSUV. Originally from the western city of Maracaibo, the law graduate and criminologist also spearheaded initiatives to tackle violent crime in Venezuela. He was elected to the National Assembly for the PSUV in 2010.

Tributes to Serra from members of the government and PSUV came pouring in upon the news of his murder. President Nicolas Maduro first reacted to the news on Twitter, writing, “We will continue your example Robert, loyal and firm in the path of the revolution that you always defended with passion.”

National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello told VTV that he felt “immense pain” at the “horrendous crime” and loss of “one of the PSUV’s new, best generation”.

Former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles recognised Serra’s death on Twitter, however attempted to tie the killing to high crime rates in Venezuela, for which the opposition blames the government.

“The death of any Venezuelan deserves our most energetic rejection, there is a national clamour for violence to be ended, peace to the soul of Dep. Robert Serra”, he wrote, continuing, “Don’t forget that in our mistreated homeland 50 Venezuelans are killed every day.”

Several commentators from within Chavismo argued that Serra’s murder was part of an alleged strategy of targeted assassinations and an “economic war” to undermine the Bolivarian government.

Writing on popular pro-government community forum Aporrea, political science professor Jesus Silva wrote of the event, “It’s not a myth, it’s a reality: there is a national plan for the targeted assassination of mid-level socialist political leaders.”

He continued, “300 NGOs are being financed by governments and companies in and outside of the country to implement political terrorism in Venezuela”.

History of assassinations

Robert Serra’s murder joins the list of other assassinations of government figures. In April, PSUV local councillor and former intelligence chief Eliecer Otaiza was murdered in Caracas. Serra’s bodyguard, detective Alexis Barreto, was also assassinated two years ago.

Alleged assassination plots and attempts have also been reported against top government officials. Last October, then price control enforcer Eduardo Saman survived a suspicious armed assault that he said was an assassination attempt.

The cases recall the car bomb assassination of state lawyer Danilo Anderson in 2004, who at the time was responsible for prosecuting several anti-government figures suspected of participating in the 2002 coup against the administration of Hugo Chavez.

Thousands of Venezuelans descended upon central Caracas on October 2 to honour the lives of Robert Serra and Maria Herrera, and to condemn the acts of violence.

Government reports evidence that Serra's assassination tied to right-wing terrorist plot

By Cory Fischer-Hoffman, Caracas

October 3, 2014 -- -- The murder of Robert Serra, a young legislator of the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), who was killed in his home along with his companion Maria Herrera late October 1, is tied to a right-wing terrorist plot, government officials stated yesterday. Thousands filled the streets of Caracas yesterday and late last night to honour Serra’s memory. President Nicolas Maduro vowed to take “swift action” against “terrorist acts”.

In response to opposition claims that Serra's death was a result of an isolated or common crime, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, minister of interior relations, stated that, “We're not dealing with unfortunate events committed by a common criminal. We are dealing with an intentional murder, planned and executed with great precision... According to the evidence obtained everything points to a planned, organised and detailed [assassination] technique.”

Venezuela's scientific investigation police (CICPC) are studying video footage from Serra's home and have collected forensic evidence. It has been reported that Serra and Herrera were killed by stab wounds. Herrera received six to seven wounds, while Serra was gagged and handcuffed and received up to 40 stab wounds before he was murdered. The act is thought to have taken 15-20 minutes.

The assassinations are thought to have been carried out by a group of six men, who were armed, and gained entry into Serra's house through some kind of guise. No evidence of forced entry was found.

The secretary general of the Union of South American Nations, former Colombian president Ernesto Samper, appeared to agree with the Venezuelan government's hypothesis as to the nature of the assassination. He responded to the news yesterday via twitter by writing, “The assassination of the young legislator Robert Serra in Venezuela is a worrying sign of the infiltration of Colombian paramilitarism.”

Government officials are claiming that the extreme Venezuelan right-wing, with links to international terrorist groups in Colombia and Miami, are behind Serra's death, and the murder of his companion Herrera.

In a recently released video, right-wing Venezuelan activist Lorent Saleh outlined his links to former Colombian President Alváro Uribe, and the acquisition of over US$8000 worth of explosives to use in a “social cleansing”. Referring to this video, academic Steve Ellner wrote yesterday, “In the conversation Saleh makes reference to sophisticated Remington arms for sharpshooters with a list of twenty targets.” Robert Serra, the young Chavista legislator and avid defender of the Bolivarian Project, was named one of the targets of Saleh's hit list.

Ellner went on to criticise the United States' allegations of human rights violations in Venezuela “when they know full well that the type of terrorism carried out in that nation would never be tolerated in the US”. He also warned that “the situation resembles the prelude to the overthrow of Salvador Allende” in Chile in 1973, when the Chilean opposition did not distance themselves from violent actions including the assassination of a Chilean general.

President Maduro paid his respects to Robert Serra and Maria Herrera yesterday and stated to the National Assembly that “criminal evidence and clues will soon make it possible to identify the material and intellectual authors of the crime”.

Thousands of Venezuelans descended upon central Caracas yesterday to honour the lives of Robert Serra and Maria Herrera, and to condemn the acts of violence. A motorcade of cars and motorcycles filled the shut down traffic late yesterday afternoon, and thousands of people stood in lines -- even through a heavy downpour -- to offer their condolences.

Robert Serra, a law graduate and criminologist, was elected in December 2010 as a member of the 2nd constituency of Caracas. He was the one of the country’s youngest elected officials and he had strong ties with grassroots movements. President Maduro called on the Venezuelan people to maintain “consciousness and fortitude" in the face of this “vile assault on the revolutionary process”.