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Venezuela’s president suggests slain beauty queen may have been targeted

Published: Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 12:00 p.m. CDT

BOGOTA, Colombia — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Monday’s slaying of former Miss Venezuela and popular actress Monica Spear seemed more like a targeted killing than a random act of violence.

During a meeting Tuesday with national leaders to discuss the country’s rampant crime, Maduro said he’d been talking to police investigators throughout the day.

“(Monday’s) assassination seemed more like a sicariato,” he said, using a word for contract killing. But he didn’t provide any details about how he’d reached that conclusion.

Maduro said officials have caught one of the perpetrators and identified the rest.

“We are going to find them,” he said.

On Tuesday, Venezuelan officials had suggested that Spear’s murder might have been an attempted robbery. And neighbors along the stretch of road in Carabobo state, where the crime took place, told local media that thieves often seed the highway with spikes to disable cars and rob their drivers.

Spear, who has spent time in Miami, was killed Monday night along with her ex-husband while inside their car.

Their 5-year-old daughter was shot in the leg but is in stable condition, Ricardo Spear, the actress’ brother told NTN24 television.

“She doesn’t know that her parents are dead — that they were murdered,” he said. “And she doesn’t know she was shot ... She thinks her mother hit her.”

The murder of Spear, 29, murder has revived the debate about Venezuelan violence. The country has one of the highest homicide rates in the world as illegal guns swamp the streets and killers rarely face justice. By some calculations, Venezuela had almost 25,000 murders last year.

On Wednesday, actors, musicians and artists held a vigil for Spear and presented a plea to National Assembly members to crack down on crime.

“What’s happening here doesn’t happen anywhere else in Latin America, and whoever says differently is simply lying,” Asier Cazalis, the vocalist for the popular rock group Caramelos de Cianuro, told Televen television. “I go to Colombia to work, I go to Mexico to work and it’s not even remotely like what’s happening here.”

In 2012, the band’s manager, Libero Iaizzo, was killed in Caracas during a presumed robbery.

“Artists are like anyone else — like a lawyer or a taxi driver — but our work is in front of the public,” Cazalis said. “We’re not exempt from what’s happening in Venezuela.”

Spear won Miss Venezuela in 2004 and was the fourth runner-up in Miss Universe in 2005. She spun her fame into a successful acting career. Her last television show was Pasion Prohibida, a telenovela produced by Miami’s Telemundo.

Spear isn’t the only celebrity to become a victim of Venezuela’s crime. In 2012, reggae singer Juan David Chacon, known as OneChot, was shot in the head, but survived the attack. In 2011, Washington Nationals Catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped for two days before being rescued. And actress Elaiza Gil told local media she was robbed twice in 2012, including at gunpoint.

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