January 18, 2014

Venezuela rocked by murder of soap opera star and former 'Miss Venezuela'

By David Paulin

Originally published at The American Thinker blog

Socialism has yet to bring "social justice" to Venezuelans -- only empty store shelves, roaring inflation, and one of the world's worst murder epidemics. Now, the chaos has a human face -- a former beauty queen named Mónica Spear who was murdered Monday night by roadside bandits. Beauty queens are revered in Venezuela, and Spear's murder has caused a public uproar -- setting off street protests and putting Nicolás Maduro's socialist government in an uncomfortable spotlight in politically polarized Venezuela.

Spear, crowed a "Miss Venezuela" in 2004, died in a hail of bullets along with her ex-husband, Thomas Henry Berry, a 39-year-old British citizen. Their 5-year-old daughter suffered a leg wound.

Police said several bandits apparently laid sharp objects on the road that flattened the car's tires. When the couple locked their car, the bandits started shooting as a tow truck arrived. One news report said the couple's holiday outing in the mountains and plains of western Venezuela was intended to give them a new start together.

A popular soap-opera actress for the Telemundo network, Spear, 29 years old, was visiting Venezuela for the holidays. In 2011 she had moved to Florida, joining tens of thousands of other Venezuelan expatriates who'd fled Venezuela during the socialist rule of Hugo Chávez, who died last March of cancer.

Nearly 25,000 Venezuelans were murdered last year, making the oil-rich but impoverished South American nation one of the world's most violent. Most of the victims are poor.

"This is a blow to all of us," President Maduro said on state television, while vowing to pursue the killers with "an iron hand." Strangely, Maduro later opined that hired killers might have targeted Spear and her family. But he cited no evidence to support that claim, which seemed calculated to deflect public outrage. In the past, Maduro has often blamed oligarchs, businessmen, and Yankee imperialist for Venezuela's economic mess.

Amid street protests over Spear's death on Wednesday, Maduro held a security meeting in Caracas with the country's governors and mayors of major cities.

When Hugo Chávez took office in 1999, Venezuela had one of the region's fastest growing murder rates, but since then the murder rate has soared. Now Venezuela is ranked by the United Nations as the world's fifth most violent country. There's an irony here, because under Chávez crime and violence "were viewed as the product of capitalism and poverty," Venezuela sociologist Roberto Briceño told The Washington Post. He attributed the crime wave "to a lack of basic law enforcement."

Spear attended junior college in Florida before graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2004. "She was a powerhouse. She really wanted to be an actress," said one of her acting teachers, John DiDonna.

Recalling an acting exercise involving Spear, DiDonna told the Orlando Sentinel that she was told to confront a student portraying the devil. "She just went off... she had an incredible argument with Satan right in the classroom. She was just fabulous."

The devil, of course, is capable of wearing many attractive disguises. Socialism is one of them.

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