Former Beauty Queen Monica Spear's Murder Changes Political Agenda In Venezuela, Citizen Safety Now A Priority

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Rally in Caracas for Monica Spear
Supporters of former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear take part in a demonstration against violence in Caracas, January 8, 2014.

The almost-unthinkable has happened: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Henrique Capriles had a talk in which they did not insult, discredit nor ignore each other. Only a heart-wrenching event like the robbery-murder that took the life of former beauty queen Mónica Spear and her family could get these two sworn enemies to put aside their differences and reach an agreement on the issue of citizen safety in the extremely violent Latin American country.

Mónica Spear, a former Miss Universe and beloved television soap opera star in Venezuela, her husband, British citizen Thomas Henry Berry, and their 5-year-old daughter were the victims of an attack on their disabled car on an isolated highway during early hours on Tuesday. Spear and Berry were shot and died instantly, and their child remains in the hospital. The crime shook Venezuelan society to its core, leading to vigils and protests throughout the country.

Maduro, who had been advocating for a new domestic security bill since last year, called an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss ways to ensure safety in the country, one of the most dangerous in the world. In 2013, the murder rate in Venezuela amounted to 79 victims per every 100,000 residents, compared with 31 in Colombia and 22 in Mexico – the global average is 6.9 murders per 100,000 people, according to data from the United Nations Office for Crime And Drugs.

The president, in a televised appearance after the meeting, called the bill a “national peace law,” and said that one of its main goals is to reduce the presence of weapons among civilians. “Nobody should have weapons. They need to give them back,” he said.

According to the think-tank Gun Policy, there are 10.7 weapons per every 100 Venezuelans, both legal and illicit. This ranks Venezuelans as the 27th-most well-armed nation out of 178 countries in the world. (Colombia ranks 30th, with 5.9 weapons per 100 citizens).

Meanwhile, the Caracas government promised to have a draft of the security bill by the end of the month, in coordination with governors from all provinces of Venezuela. Vice-President Jorge Arreaza recognized in his Twitter account that citizen safety had become a priority in the political agenda, leaving aside other matters that have dominated headlines lately, like the so-called “economic war” that Maduro’s government has waged against price-gougers, speculators and others blamed for rampant inflation and shortages.

As for the Spears double-murder, police in Puerto Cabello have arrested five suspects, some of whom are minors.

At least one opposition political blamed the killings on the Maduro government. "This government is an accomplice of armed groups, judicial corruption, arms trafficking," tweeted Leopoldo Lopez.

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