After a young star of Venezuela's ruling socialist party was murdered in his home, the government has sought to blame the opposition and portray the victim as a political martyr. However, this narrative is drawn into question by his reported ties to the murky world of Caracas' militant collectives.
Twenty-seven-year-old Robert Serra -- one of the youngest members of Venezuela's Congress -- was a fervent supporter of former President Hugo Chavez and a well-known leader within the socialist party, the PSUV. On October 1, he was found dead in his home alongside a political aide (who may have been his partner), Maria Herrera.
As Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional reported, a group of six men entered the home that evening, two of them wearing religious-type clothing. There were no signs of forced entry, so it is possible that Herrera allowed them to come inside. She was killed first, receiving six stab wounds, followed by Serra, who received up to 40 stab wounds by an unidentified weapon.
The Minister of Justice and the Interior, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, said that "common crime" had nothing to do with the murders, and that it was a carefully planned act. This assertion was echoed in statements by President Nicolas Maduro. Congress declared three days of mourning, as the country's attorney general promised to find those behind the killings.
Politicians from the PSUV party were quick to paint the murders as politically motivated. Speaker of Congress Diosdado Cabello blamed "the fascist right" for killing Serra and Herrera. Another member of Congress accused the opposition, stating, "this was an operational war tactic that was absolutely planned."
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Based on what has been reported around the murders so far, there are indications that Herrera may have known the assassins, if she indeed allowed them to enter Serra's home. Another question is why two of Serra's bodyguards -- provided by the Bolivarian National Guard -- were not assigned to work with him that day.
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El Nuevo Herald offered one possible theory for Serra's murder, reporting that he had ties to the various militant political collectives that operate in Caracas. These collectives were originally formed as self-defense groups in city neighborhoods with a poor police presence, and have been known to fight among one another in the past. Serra's death could be a good opportunity for authorities to shine a light into this murky world of the collectives, and attempt to determine whether his relationship with them had anything to do with his murder.
Given Serra's status as a young star of the PSUV, it's also possible that his murder was ordered by political rivals who thought that he gained too much power too quickly. The fact that Serra was killed so brutally has likely shaken much of the PSUV's political elite, and may yet drive the authorities to carry out a thorough investigation into what happened. Given how politicized Serra's murder has already become, the real test for Venezuela's justice system is whether there will truly be an impartial investigation.