Killing of Venezuelan leader was 'politically motivated,' government critics claim

The killing of an opposition leader in Venezuela may have had political motives, fellow party members of the late German Mavare told Fox News Latino.

Mavare, a leader of Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT) party in the western state of Lara, died Thursday night after being shot point-blank in the head as he was walking home with a friend in Barquisimeto, the state’s capital. All that was taken was his outdated cell phone.

Opposition leaders have called it an assassination of a vocal critic of the socialist government.

Mavare, 53, who lived in a neighborhood traditionally dominated by Chavismo, was considered a strong force behind the opposition’s win in the December parliamentary election.

“He was a key part of the opposition campaign in Barquisimeto, where we won in places historically controlled by the government’s party,” Enrique Marquez, president of UNT, said to FNL.

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In Mavare’s district, Juan de Villegas, the opposition carried all three of the available seats for the National Assembly.

Congressman Luis Florido, a member of Voluntad Popular from Lara state, a vocal opponent of Venezuela’s socialist government, said a witness to the shooting gave a chilling version of events.

“[Mavare] was walking to his house with a female friend when a man on a motorcycle intercepted them; at first he tried to rob them and Mavare asked him to leave the woman alone,” Florido said. “The man then said that he didn’t want to rob them, he wanted to kill him…Then he fired the shots.”

“After hearing this story,” Florido said, “we all assumed the man was a hired killer.”

In Mavare’s neighborhood, La Carucieña, the government a few years ago set up a Chavista base – called Taroa – manned with dozens of mostly armed supporters considered violent. Because of his political work, Florido said, Mavare had several confrontations with these armed supporters.

“This could have been a political crime and everything signals the members of the Taroa commune,” Florido told FNL. “Maybe they wanted to send a message and scare people,” he added.

Just over a week ago, Mavare played a key role in the effort of collecting signatures for a referendum petition to recall President Nicolas Maduro.

UNT president Marquez, who is also the vice president of the National Assembly, told Fox News Latino he’d rather not jump into conclusions as to what the nature of the crime was.

“We don’t rule out any possibility because this doesn’t looks like a common crime, but we want to wait [until the investigation is done],” he said.

Venezuela’s Attorney General announced that an investigation is underway, conducted by prosecutor Yeritza Ríos. The announcement came in a press release Sunday revealing also that Mavare’s cellphone was stolen.

“His cellphone was old and doesn’t have any market value,” said Florido, who was Mavare’s personal friend. “If his killer took it might had been to check his information and his contacts, not to steal it,” he added.

The brutal killing has sent chills across the country. Florido said the National Assembly will address the case on Tuesday and will demand a public repudiation of the crime from the part of the government.

The Assembly also plans to declare May 5 (the day of the murder) the “Official day of the community worker” in memory of Mavare.

“He was the living example of how to be a community leader,” Florido said, “and he deserves to be honored.”