Andes, Today in Latin America, Venezuela

Venezuelan Lawmaker Stabbed to Death Under Mysterious Circumstances

October 3, 2014 By Staff

Top Story — A Venezuelan lawmaker was stabbed to death on Wednesday night in what authorities said was a carefully planned slaying.

Robert Serra, 27, of the ruling socialist party was killed along with his girlfriend at his home in the working class Caracas neighborhood of La Pastora, The Associated Press reported. Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres called the slaying “an intentional homicide, planned and executed with great precision.”

When he was elected to his first term in 2010, Serra was the youngest legislator to serve in Venezuela’s National Assembly.

The incident highlights Venezuela’s high violent crime rates. According to U.N. statistics, Venezuela had the second highest peacetime murder rate in the world after Honduras in 2013.

President Nicolas Maduro’s administration is making efforts to curtail violent crime.

As part of a larger security plan first launched in January, the government released a smartphone app last month, which divides Caracas into quadrants, allowing residents to directly contact police officers responsible for specific areas. A similar plan was tested in Bogota, Colombia in 2011, and was credited for contributing to a reduction in homicides.

Also in September, Maduro announced the expansion – $47 million in additional funding – of a program aimed at disarming civilians and putting military troops on patrol in high-crime areas.

Despite these efforts, there are reasons to doubt the government’s intentions to fully address the country’s crime problem. Venezuela’s official homicide rate is much lower than U.N. statistics, which come from non-profit groups, suggesting the administration’s unwillingness to acknowledge the severity of the situation.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • In an effort to cut down on money laundering by Mexican criminal groups, some 2,000 Los Angeles fashion businesses will be required to report large cash transactions for the next six months.
  • The state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos will hold talks aimed at working with Exxon, a U.S. oil company, in Mexico’s oil market, which was recently opened to private investment in a bid to revitalize the flagging sector.
  • Relatives of the missing Mexican students from Guerrero state joined authorities in their search efforts.
  • Following the Wednesday arrest of drug lord Hector Beltran Leyva, InSight Crime co-director Steven Dudley highlighted the genteel manner of the kingpin, who built his career through shrewd political maneuvering in a departure from the cartel scene’s usual brutality.

Caribbean

Central America

  • InSight Crime reported on the corruption of the selection process for judges in Guatemala’s appellate courts
  • Controversy over the Pacific Rim mining permit in El Salvador demonstrates a trend of corporations circumventing state domestic laws regarding extractive industries.

Andes

  • The mayoral race in Lima is still contentious, leading up to elections on Oct. 5.
  • Bolivia will begin work on a $2 billion nuclear power program this year, announced President Evo Morales, who looks all but certain to win his third consecutive term in the upcoming election.
  • After years of supplying Caribbean countries with inexpensive oil, Venezuela’s PetroCaribe may have to enforce stricter payment policies as the country’s economy suffers.

Southern Cone

  • Argentina’s economic policy will remain largely unchanged following the sudden resignation on Wednesday of its central bank head, according to cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich, an assurance which has failed to soothe the troubled markets in Buenos Aires, which fell by another 7 percent on Thursday.
  • A unique photo essay from the Associated Press chronicles the lives of “catadores”: men and women who make their living collecting and selling trash from an enormous dump in Brasilia.

Image: Youtube

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