At 9:45pm last night, state prosecutor Danilo Anderson was the victim of a car-bomb assasination. His SUV was blown up as he was on his way home after attending a univsersity graduate course in the downtown Caracas neighbourhood of Los Chaguaramos.

According to the scientific police (CICPC) two explosions ripped through Anderson’s vehicle approximately five minutes after starting his car. Consumed by flames, Anderson’s yellow Toyota Autana continued forward after the explosions, eventually crashing into a store.

Caracas firefighters were teh first to the scene, resonding to calls by local witnesses to the explosion. They were joined shortly thereafter by members of Venezuela’s military intelligence police (DISIP), the scientific police (CICPC), the National Guard, Metropolitan Police, Caracas Police, and Military Police. By 12am this morning, high governmental officials including Vice-President José Vincente Rangel, Ministers of Information, Justice and the Interior, and Energy and Mines and the Attorney General had arrived at the scene of the explosion.

Government spokesmen refrained from making any official declarations on the identity of the victim until forensics experts had positively identified the body as state prosecutor Danilo Anderson’s late Friday morning. Shortly after arriving at the scene of the crime in the early hours of Friday morning, Minister of Justice and the Interior Jesse Chacón stated “there is no doubt that what took place in Sta. Mónica was an assasssinastion...Whoever did it prepared it with premeditation, and sufficient time.” “Anderson had bodyguards assigned to him,” continued Chacón, “but whenever he attended his class he dismissed them. It was a routine he had, and we assume that his murder was planned on this routine.”

A visibly distrurbed Attorney General of the Republic Isaías Rodríguez declared at the site that “we will find the guilty parties if we have to dig up the Earth, look under every stone. And the guilty parties will be found.”

A state prosecutor in the eye of the storm

The 38-year-old Danilo Anderson’s official post is as State Environmmental Prosecutor with national jurisdiction. During the April 2002 attempted coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Anderson was instrumental in getting the state television channel back on the air, at which point the state channel made the first public announcement declaring that Chávez supporters had retaken power.

As a result, Anderson was personally designated by the Attorney General to act as state prosecutor. Anderson had recently gotten headlines for his controvercial investigations into the violence that occured during the April 2002 coup.

Three cases in particular had given the State Prosecutor a high profile. He was in charge of accusations made against members of the Metropolitan police, allegedly responsible for firing aginst civilians on April 11th, 2002 on the Puente Llaguno (next to the presdidential palace). These killings were intially pinned on Chávista supporters by Venezuela’s private mainstream media, and they were used by disident military officers as justification for the coup.

Anderson’s office was also pursuing the indictment of Henrique Capriles Radonsky, mayor of the wealthy Caracas municipality of Baruta for violating the sovereignty of the Cuban embassy on April 12th, 2002. Most recently, Anderson had subpoenaed approximately 400 people who had signed the decree by which business leader Pedro Carmona abolished the supreme court, the consitution, the National Assembly, the Ombudsman, the Attorney Generals office, and every other institution of Venezuelan democracy as self-declared interim President during the April coup.

Anderson’s dynamic image of a capable state prosecutor whose public statements were notoriously precise and professional, won him systematic attacks from the opposition and the private media to the extreme of personal offense and slander.

The return of terror

Anderson’s murder is not the first time that explosives have been used in Venezuela in recent years. Political violence has lurked in the shadows in a Venzuelan context of fierce political battles over the controversial rule of Presdient Chávez. The consistent failure of the opposition to force Chávez’ resignation despite an attempted coup, four failed general strikes, and 9 electoral contests have convinced some sectors of the opposition of the need for violence.

In 2003 the Colombian and Spanish embassies were bombed by a violent faction of the opposition to Chávez, and later that year a telecomunications building was also bombed. This third bombing led government investigators to issue arrest warrants for several former Venezuelan military officers, including Gen. Gonzalez Gonzalez, and Gen. Felipe Rodríguez. Gen. Rodriguez gave an interview with Miami Herald correspondent Phil Gunson earlier this year from Miami, where the General declared he was going underground to lead a clandestine guerilla war against President Chávez.

Most recently, 130 Colombian paramilitaries where discovered and arrested on the Caracas property of Cuban exile and Venezuelan citizen Robert Alonso. While political violence has had a sporadic presence in Venzuela over the past two years this is the first time that one individual has the specific target of this type of action.

Despite the official refusal speculate as to the identities and possible motivations of the perpetrators responsible for Anderson’s death, government spokespeople have not hestitated in clearly identifying it as a reprehensible terrorist act.

Amid a situaion in which the country had seemed to recover tranquility after the referendum and the recgional elections, this act of extereme violence once again raises the spectre of a possible dirty war in Venezuela.