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Arrest made in slaying of Venezuela ex-spy chief

April 30, 2014

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Police have arrested a suspect in the mysterious murder of a former Venezuelan intelligence chief with close ties to the late President Hugo Chavez.

Eliezer Otaiza’s body was found dumped in a forested area on the edge of Caracas on Saturday after his vehicle was intercepted by a group of armed men. He had been shot four times.

No motive has been established for the crime, but President Nicolas Maduro speculated late Tuesday that enemies of his socialist government might have been behind Otaiza’s murder.

In a ceremony honoring Otaiza at the National Assembly, Maduro urged his supporters to stay on maximum alert, alleging that some of the opposition activists who have been staging anti-government protests since February are committed to using violence to destabilize the country.

“There’s no such thing as casual coincidences,” he told lawmakers and party leaders, many of whom vowed to avenge Otaiza’s slaying. “Let’s not forget the context of the last few months.”

Interior Minister Manuel Rodriguez Torres gave few details about the investigation into Otaiza’s killing, saying only that the arrested suspect had led police to identify the other alleged gunmen. The suspect’s name wasn’t released.

Otaiza was one of the most loyal supporters of Chavez’s socialist revolution. As a young army officer, he backed Chavez’s failed 1992 coup attempt and was responsible for his personal security guard when he was elected president in 1998.

Otaiza later served as national director of the country’s intelligence service. In December, he was elected a city councilman in the downtown Caracas district that has long been a government stronghold.

Venezuela has one of the highest homicide rates in the world and few killings are ever solved.

At Tuesday’s ceremony, Maduro promoted Otaiza post-mortem to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Update hourly