Venezuela's government attempted to present a young politician's murder as a political killing, but a surveillance video appears to contradict this narrative, suggesting the embattled president may be manipulating information to bolster his weakening position.
After a rising star within Venezuela's socialist party PSUV, Robert Serra, was killed along with his political aide at his home on October 1 by a group of unknown assailants, government officials were quick to blame the double homicide on the "fascist right." Later, President Nicolas Maduro claimed the attacks were led by Colombian right-wing paramilitaries.
However, according to the former head of Venezuela's national police agency (CICPC), Javier Gorriño, the government's version of events is drawn into question by segments of a surveillance video (see below) recorded on the night of the murder, reported El Nacional. The video -- which shows the assailants opening the door to the house without any signs of struggle -- also differs from the account given by Serra's head body guard, who claimed the assailants had forcibly entered the home.
One inconsistency pointed out by Gorriño was that the video showed the assailants leaving Serra's house with several suitcases. This could indicate the murders were linked to a robbery, rather than being politically motivated. Additionally, the men left the crime scene in a disorganized fashion, suggesting the attacks were not premeditated. Maduro recently claimed the murder had been planned three months in advance.
The video Maduro presented to the public was also heavily edited by government officials, with sections cut out and other parts speeded up, according to El Nacional.
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With his approval ratings dropping, Maduro was perhaps hoping to benefit politically from the death of a young politician from the socialist party and win the sympathies of Venezuelans. However, the inconsistencies in the video noted by Gorriño indicate the government was too quick in its claims, further reducing the credibility of statements regarding Colombian paramilitary involvement that already appeared to have little factual basis.
Increasing unrest in Venezuela due to a flailing economy and high crime rates has forced Maduro to manipulate statistics in order to keep his support among the Venezuelan population. Controlling media propaganda has long been widely used by Venezuela's PSUV to maintain power and support in the country. Without these tools, Maduro, who won presidential elections by a slight margin in 2013 as the hand-picked successor to the charismatic leader Hugo Chavez, might lose his mandate from the Venezuelan people.
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The government has been known to politicize crime statistics by withholding unfavorable figures from the public. Venezuela's murder rate is among the highest in the world, but there are major discrepancies between the officially reported numbers and counts from independent organizations. Venezuela is also known as the, "kidnap capital of the world", however underreporting makes it difficult to asses the true scope of the crime in the country.