Despite Venezuela’s repeated claims that Colombian paramilitary groups were behind last month’s assassination of National Assembly Deputy Robert Serra, authorities have failed to provide tangible proof, Colombia’s ambassador to that country said Wednesday.
In an interview with Colombia’s W Radio, Ambassador Luis Eladio Pérez said Venezuelan authorities had not cleared up the nature of the crime and that, at this point, any Colombian connection was tentative at best.
Venezuela has arrested 10 people, including the head of Serra’s bodyguards. Early this month, acting on a Venezuelan warrant, Colombia detained Leiva Padilla Mendoza, known as “Colombia,” in the port city of Cartagena.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and other cabinet officials have described Padilla as the head of a Colombian paramilitary gang and the “tactical leader” of the murder.
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But Pérez suggested they hadn’t made their case.
“The assassination was committed by Congressman Serra’s own bodyguards, but we don’t know the motive,” Pérez said. “Among that group was the citizen known as ‘Colombia’ who is Venezuelan with Colombian parents…That’s the only connection with Colombia.”
Last weekend, Venezuela Interior Minister Carmen Meléndez said Padilla would be deported to Caracas in coming days.
“We want justice,” she said. “There will be no impunity. We will have justice in this case and all crimes.”
Serra and a companion were stabbed repeatedly in the congressman’s home on Oct 1. The bloody crime rattled the country, which has one of the highest murder rates in the hemisphere.
Even before the initial detentions, however, Maduro couched it as a political crime and blamed Venezuela’s opposition, shadowy groups here and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. He’s also said officials know the “intellectual author” of the crime, but more than 40 days after the incident, the country is waiting for details.
Amid Venezuela’s tanking economy and rampant crime, the government has often sought scapegoats, and neighboring Colombia has often been the target.
Pérez said this latest case threatened to fan the flames of “xenophobia” against Colombians living in Venezuela.
“I hope that authorities in Venezuela clear up the case and establish both the material and intellectual authors of this crime,” he said, “which has caused a lot of turmoil because of the ferociousness of the crime and the political impact that it still has in Venezuela.”