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Published: Wednesday January 8, 2014 MYT 4:56:17 AM
Updated: Wednesday January 8, 2014 MYT 4:57:15 AM

Former Miss Venezuela shot dead

Miss Universe 2005 contestant Monica Spear of Venezuela takes part in an AIDS candlelight memorial in a Bangkok hotel to remember those who have lost their lives to the disease in this May 16, 2005 file photo. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom/Files

Miss Universe 2005 contestant Monica Spear of Venezuela takes part in an AIDS candlelight memorial in a Bangkok hotel to remember those who have lost their lives to the disease in this May 16, 2005 file photo. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom/Files

CARACAS (Reuters) - Assailants shot dead a former Miss Venezuela and her ex-husband in the latest high-profile case of violent crime in the South American nation, authorities said on Tuesday.

Monica Spear, 29, who was also a soap opera actress, and Henry Berry, 39, died in an attempted robbery on the highway between Puerto Cabello and Valencia in central Venezuela.

The 2004 Miss Venezuela winner lived in the United States but was vacationing in Venezuela. The pair's 5-year-old daughter survived the attack late on Monday, but with a bullet wound in her leg, the government and local media said.

Reports indicated Spear's car may have broken down before armed robbers approached - a common occurrence on roads after dark in one of the world's most violent nations.

Showbiz colleagues were devastated.

"I'm so sad for my Venezuela, my condolences for Monica Spear's family. Rage and impotence are what I feel right now," wrote Venezuelan salsa singer Oscar D'Leon on Twitter.

Venezuela's official homicide rate late year was 39 per 100,000 inhabitants, but local non-government organizations put the figure at nearly twice that for a total of 24,000 deaths.

President Nicolas Maduro has declared beating violent crime his No. 1 priority, and polls consistently show it to be Venezuelans' main concern.

But opponents say the government's anti-crime plans are not tackling root causes, such as impunity for criminals, corrupt courts and police complicity in some crime.

(Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Brian Ellsworth and Stephen Powell)

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