The murder of the 2004 Miss Venezuela winner has sparked a wave of concern over the country’s security situation, forcing the government to confront a major issue it has previously tried to downplay.
Monica Spear, a model and actress, was murdered along with her British partner, Thomas Henry Berry, in an apparent robbery attempt on January 6.
According to El Universal, the couple’s car broke down on the highway as they headed toward Caracas, and they were being assisted by a tow truck when a group of armed assailants approached their car and shot at them six times. Both were killed in the shooting, and their five-year-old daughter was wounded.
Five suspects have been arrested in the case, two of them minors, reported El Universal.
Following the murders, opposition leader Henrique Capriles claimed the country was in a “situation of emergency,” calling on President Nicolas Maduro to “put our differences aside” to fight insecurity.
InSight Crime Analysis
When placed against the record 24,763 homicides — a record homicide rate of 79 per 100,000 registered in the unofficial count of the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV) — in 2013, Spear’s death is neither shocking nor unusual. Robbery is a major cause of these killings — a quarter of murders in Caracas were attributed to the crime in 2011.
However, the murder of such a prominent public figure has forced the issue of insecurity into the limelight after years of officials’ attempts to cover up unpleasant crime statistics and manipulate public perceptions.
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A central focus in coming days will be Maduro’s reaction. The high-profile nature of the case places pressure on his administration to effectively address insecurity in what has become, based on OVV numbers, the world’s second most dangerous country behind Honduras. His security policies until now have included placing soldiers on the streets and creating a joint civil-military task force to fight border crime, but OVV homicide numbers suggest these actions have had little impact so far. While the OVV’s numbers may not be infallible, they appear far more reliable than statistics issued by the government.
If the authorities are to effectively tackle Venezuela’s rampant violence, they will also need to focus on issues such as deeply corrupt and ineffective security forces, rising drug trafficking through the country and a lack of effective gun control.
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