For the Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, the murder of a former beauty queen wasn't so much a tragedy as an opportunity.
|At the National Press Club, CDDA organized|
a panel to discuss organized crime in Venezuela
On January 6, Monica Spear, who won the 2004 Miss Venezuela beauty contest and later became one of the country's most popular actresses, was traveling with her partner and their five year old daughter along a highway in Carabobo state. As they waited for assistance after their car broke down, a group of armed robbers descended on them. As is the custom with Venezuelan criminals, who are reluctant to leave witnesses behind, both Ms. Spear and her partner, Thomas Berry, were shot dead, while their little girl was wounded in the leg.
The sad reality of Venezuela today is that impunity reigns, from gangland executions in poor neighborhoods all the way up to military leaders running private operations with public money.
- Fermín Lares
Although Venezuelans have become accustomed to violent crime – at an annual average of 79 per 100,000, the country has the world's highest homicide rate after Honduras – the horrific murders in Carabobo, involving as they did a much-loved celebrity and her family, convulsed the entire nation in shock. Enter Maduro, who loudly declared that he would use an "iron fist" against Venezuelan criminals.
Sure enough, within days of the killings, seven men said to belong to a gang known as "Los sanguinarios del Cambur" ("The bloodthirsty ones of Cambur") were in custody. But if Maduro was expecting plaudits from a country whose citizens are even more fiercely divided than during the rule of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, he must have been sorely disappointed. The swift response of the authorities in the Monica Spear case was a stark contrast to the thousands of other murders – there were a total of 24,763 murders in 2013 alone, according to the independent Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV) – that are seldom investigated or resolved.
To the casual observer, it is not immediately clear how the various strands that compose Venezuela's current economic and political crisis relate to this fundamental breakdown of law and order. What therefore needs to be understood is that, after 15 years of Chavista misrule, the Venezuelan state is not an enemy of the criminal networks that have conquered the country, but their ally.