A local leader of Venezuela’s United Socialist Party (PSUV) was gunned down in south-central Caracas Monday by alleged members of an armed criminal group.
Elizabeth Aguilera, 43, was the head of the local PSUV chapter– known as Bolívar-Chávez Battle Units– in the working class neighborhood of Cota 905 in the Caracas municipality of El Libertador.
The grassroots leader was reportedly in her home on Monday evening when she was accosted by armed men who demanded that she step out and subsequently shot her multiple times. According to police authorities, the corpse was later incinerated by the suspects who are believed to have uploaded photos of the incident to social media.
The head of the regional Capital District government, Daniel Aponte, denounced the assassination via Twitter on Tuesday, describing Aguilera as, “A tireless fighter, RADICAL CHAVISTA, popular and communal leader. Woman loyal to her principles and committed to President Nicolas Maduro.”
The PSUV leader suggested that the assassination was the work of a “paramilitary group”, promising, “justice will be done”.
Cota 905 is largely controlled by criminal syndicates, among them, a group known as “el Coki” comprised of at least 120 men, specializing in vehicle theft, kidnappings, extortion, and homicide.
Last July, state security personnel operating under the Venezuelan government’s anti-crime operation, the OLP, conducted massive raids in the neighborhood, aiming to uproot the armed groups.
The Venezuelan daily El Nacional has reported that residents in the different communities of Cota 905 acted in the capacity of informants, aiding authorities in locating members of the criminal organizations.
Venezuela’s forensic police, the CICPC, have indicated that the assassination of Aguilera may have been a revenge killing carried out by gang members in response to the local leader’s collaboration with police authorities.
The murder is the latest in a string of assassinations of Chavista political leaders, which has included the killing of a local Tupamaro leader and a Haitian solidarity activist in March as well as the assassination of prominent left-wing journalist Ricardo Duran in January.