Former Miss Venezuela Killed, Highlights Violence in Venezuela

Thursday, January 9, 2014 - 16:00

In Venezuela, a country known for being one of the most violent in the world, one person dies about every 21 seconds, leading to more than 43 deaths per day. One of these unfortunate victims was Monica Spear, former Miss Venezuela. While vacationing in her home country with her husband and five-year-old daughter, the 29-year-old was murdered in an armed robbery. Her husband, Thomas Henry Berry also died in the incident. Although she suffered a shot in the leg, their daughter, Maya, survived the robbery. The three were driving on a countryside highway when their car broke down. Armed robbers attacked the car, opening fire on the family.

Spear was known not only as a beauty queen, but as a popular soap opera star as well. After winning the title of Miss Venezuela in 2004, she went on to represent her country in the 2005 Miss Universe pageant. From there she began to act in soap operas becoming an international star and recently making her home in Miami. She worked for Telemundo making appearances in “Flor Salvaje” and “Pasión Prohibida.” The network commented on her death, "We are deeply impacted and saddened by the horrible crime that the beloved actress Monica Spear and her family suffered. Monica was not just a great professional … but also she was an excellent person, always enthusiastic and with great strength and determination."

In a previous interview, Spear had stated that she left her home country and moved to the United States because of Venezuela’s security issues. Close friend and news anchor Maria Alejandra Requena said that Spear had been excited to travel to Venezuela for the holidays. "She wanted to spend Christmas and New Year's in Venezuela, to travel around Venezuela, to let her little daughter know her country."

In response to the tragedy, President Nicolás Maduro called it a “massacre,” saying that more should be done to combat the nation’s security problems. Officials have also pledged to solve the issue. Maduro’s opposing candidate, Henrique Capriles, used his Twitter account to offer assistance to Maduro in addressing security policy issues. Shortly after doing this, a meeting was arranged for governors to discuss possible future tactics for fighting violence.

Although promises have been made to improve the country’s current situation, many remain pessimistic. Criminologist Luis Izquiel stated, "This happens every day in Venezuela. ... If the victim had not been this actress, the person would simply be one more statistic.” Spear’s personal trainer lamented that in Venezuela "Life does not matter. A life can be traded for some shoes."

Although violent death is no news in Venezuela, unfortunately enough, the death of this celebrity will draw more attention to the issue, perhaps inspiring more serious government action. This tragic incident shows that any Venezuelan, despite social class, may fall victim to random, unjustified crime at any moment. Being an international star, Spear’s death has brought the issue of growing violence in Venezuela to the global stage. Her death serves as a symbol of the continuation of violence in the country, adding yet another digit to the 24,700 deaths that occurred last year alone (according to the non-governmental organization Venezuelan Observatory of Violence).

Although this temporary collective outrage may seem to be a sign that the government will address the issues of violence that plague the country, this grim situation has been the Venezuelan reality for the past decade. Since Chavez came to power in 1999, violence has steadily grown. In 2012, the murder rate reached an all time high at 21,692. (To read more about Venezuela’s violent climate under Chavez, please refer to my previous article) Since then, the 2013 statistic of 24,700 has capped the previous year’s rate, once again achieving a record high. Promises to reduce this country’s violence have clearly been unkept. These statistics serve as a disturbing indicator that the government’s futile attempts to control violence will most likely be met by growing murder rates over the following year.

About Author(s)

Madeline Townsend
Madeline is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh. She is pursuing a degree in Spanish and Global Studies, with a focus on the Latin American region. She plans to present an honors thesis on visual representations of the internal conflict that occurred in Peru between 1980 and 2000. She also studies Portuguese and Film Studies as minors and works as one of the Panoramas interns.