Thursday, January 9, 2014

Venezuela: Update--Maduro Announces Arrests in Shooting Deaths of Former Miss Venezuela, Spouse

According to The Latin American TribuneVenezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced Wednesday (January 8) the arrest of five suspects in the murder of former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear and her Irish husband. 

As our regular readers know, former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear Mootz, 29, and her husband, Thomas Henry Berry, 39, were both shot and killed and their 5-year-old daughter wounded in an armed robbery on a highway in the central state of Carabobo.

The couple was found murdered on Monday night (January 6) after their car broke down due to a mechanical problem.

The couple’s daughter was taken to a hospital where she remains in stable condition.

COMMENT: The armed robbery apparently occurred when the couple and their were waiting to receive roadside assistance, according to both Globovision and Union Radio.

Based in Miami, where Ms. Spear worked for US television network, Telemundo, the family was in Venezuela for a short vacation.

Spear was born in 1984 in Maracaibo, won the Miss Venezuela beauty pageant in 2004 and the next year participated in the Miss Universe pageant in Thailand, where she came in fourth.

After that she became an actress and starred in several soap operas, including “Mi prima Ciela,” “Calle Luna, Calle Sol,” “La Mujer Perfecta,” “Flor Salvaje” and “Pasion Prohibida.”

According to the US Department of State, Venezuela has been designated as “Critical” for violent crime, the highest level in the Department’s four-tier threat system of “critical, high, medium and low” threat.

Given the fact that Venezuela’s police system is grossly underpaid, corrupt and ineffective, I strongly urge that only those on essential travel visit Venezuela, as violent crime permeates all states, but particularly in the capital.

As a side note, if residents or foreigners drive in Venezuela they should ensure that their vehicle is dependable and in good working condition, as a road-breakdown for even a short period of time leaves motorists prey to gunmen.

Reportedly, in a country of 30 million, six million illegal firearms are in the hands of career criminals.

Interior Minister Miguel Rodríguez said Tuesday that five suspects had been arrested on suspicion of being part of the criminal gang responsible for the shooting death of the young couple.

The Venezuelan government reported recently that the country had 39 murders per 100,000 residents, yet the non-governmental organization, Venezolano de Violencia, backed up the accurate rate of homicides at 79 per 100,000.

It is unknown whether the assailants who shot and killed the young couple did so as a result of the couple resisting the robbery or whether the couple was killed so as to eliminate witnesses, considering that their young daughter was shot as well. 

As a side note, if Ms. Spear had not been affiliated with a US television station, it is doubtful that President Muduro would have made the statement of her death. The next shoe to drop will be whether the identities of the assailants will be released to the public and whether those arrested actually performed the shooting.