June 3, 2015
President Maduro stated that Julio Velez, an ally of Alvaro Uribe, who financed the murder of Venezuelan socialist lawmaker Robert Serra, was captured in Venezuela. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced on teleSUR’s Spanish-language TV channel that Julio Velez, who financed and directed the assassination of Venezuelan socialist lawmaker Robert Serra, was captured Wednesday in Venezuela.
President Maduro said Velez, a Colombian politician, financed the murder during the broadcast of his weekly television program Tuesday.
Maduro said that Velez is linked to former president and current far-right Senator Alvaro Uribe. Maduro called Velez an important figure, saying he is Uribe’s “right-hand man” in the city of Cucuta, near the border with Venezuela.
President Maduro had previously stated that authorities suspected the involvement of Colombian paramilitaries in Serra’s murder, and that it formed part of broader efforts to destabilize the Venezuelan government. Uribe has long been accused of having ties to paramilitary organizations.
According to the Venezuelan president, investigations by Venezuelan authorities indicate that Velez also operates illegal currency exchanges on the Colombian-Venezuelan border as part of a money laundering operation.
Venezuelan authorities said last year that the murder plot cost around US$250,000, with this sum allegedly coming from Velez and being transferred to Leiver Padilla, a Colombian paramilitary and one of the main suspects of Serra’s murder. Padilla was handed over to Venezuelan authorities last month after being extradited from Colombia.
Velez is also currently wanted by Colombian authorities for his alleged role in the death of his wife in 2010.
Maduro ordered police in Venezuela to cooperate with Colombian police in order to secure the arrest of the former local councilor.
According to Maduro, apart from Velez, only one suspect in Serra’s murder remains at large.
Serra and his partner were murdered in their home on October 1, 2014. Surveillance images showed a group entering Serra’s house, assisted by his head of security, and subsequently leaving in under five minutes.
The 27-year-old Serra, who was the youngest serving member of the National Assembly, was seen as a rising star of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela.