CARACAS (Reuters) - Robert Serra, a young “Chavista” ruling party lawmaker, died after being stabbed in his home in Caracas late Wednesday in an “intentional homicide,” government officials said, in Venezuela’s latest high-profile violent crime.
Serra, 27, and Maria Herrera - whom officials said was Serra’s companion - were killed at his residence in the impoverished La Pastora neighborhood of the Venezuelan capital.
The victims died of hemorrhagic shock after they were stabbed with a “sharp, penetrating weapon,” Interior and Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said early Thursday.
“This is not a random incident committed by common criminals, this is an intentional homicide, planned and executed with great precision,” Rodriguez Torres said.
Government officials described Herrera Thursday as Serra’s “companion” after saying late Wednesday she was his romantic partner. The nature of their relationship couldn’t immediately be verified.
Torres urged the political opposition to refrain from turning Serra’s death into a “media circus.”
One of the youngest members of the National Assembly, Serra was a lawyer with a Master’s Degree in criminology, media reports said. He was an avowed ‘Chavista’ - a supporter of the left-wing political ideology of the country’s late former president, Hugo Chavez.
He rose to prominence as a student leader and was seen as one of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s (PSUV) most promising young leaders.
Critics had rapped his perceived aggressive political style and ties with radical fringe groups. Local media reports said two of Serra’s escorts have been killed in recent years.
Serra’s death puts the spotlight again on violent crime in Venezuela, which has one of the world’s highest homicide rates.
Venezuela’s official homicide rate last year was 39 per 100,000 people, but non-government organizations put the figure at nearly twice that for a total of 24,000 deaths.
In January, Monica Spear, a soap-opera star and former Miss Venezuela, was murdered alongside her former husband.
President Nicolas Maduro has said that curbing violent crime is his first priority, and polls consistently show it to be one of Venezuelans’ main concerns. This week, the government launched a voluntary disarmament program.
Critics say the government’s anti-crime plans do not tackle the root causes, such as impunity for criminals, corrupt courts and complicity by a poorly paid police force.
Both the Socialist government and opposition leaders in politically polarized Venezuela deplored Serra’s death.
“Robert, we’ll follow your example, loyal and firm on the road of the revolution you always defended with passion,” President Maduro said on Twitter.
Additional reporting by Alexandra Ulmer, Corina Pons and Diego Ore; Editing by Bernadette Baum