Rodrigo Rosenberg, Alvaro Colom murder
Rodrigo Abd/AP
Anti-government protestors hold a poster of Guatemala's President
Álvaro Colom, left,
that reads in Spanish "Assassins" outside the presidential palace in Guatemala City,
Wednesday, May 13, 2009.

Did Guatemala’s President Order the Hit of Rodrigo Rosenberg?

May 14, 2009 06:30 PM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
Before his murder, Guatemalan lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg filmed a video accusing President Álvaro Colom of ordering his death. The case, under investigation by a UN commission, has Guatemala in a state of chaos. 

Posthumous Video Accuses President of Murder

On May 12, Guatemalan lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg was shot by three unidentified men while biking around the Guatemala City suburbs. According to The Washington Post, Rosenberg, who represented many powerful and prominent clients, left a videotape and a written statement blaming his death on Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom. The New York Times reported that Colom is a center-left official who was democratically elected in January.

"Good afternoon. My name is Rodrigo Rosenberg Marzano, and sadly, if you are watching this message, it is because I have been murdered," he said in the video, available on YouTube. "If you are hearing or seeing this message, it is because I was assassinated by President Álvaro Colom."

According to The New York Times, Rosenberg believed that the Guatemalan government would want him dead because he represented businessman Khalil Musa, a member of the board of Guatemala's Rural Development Bank. Musa and his daughter were assassinated in March, allegedly due to his refusal to participate in illicit transactions through the bank.

Reuters explains that a special commission created in 2007 by the UN will investigate Rosenberg’s murder case; the commission was originally organized to fight white-collar corruption in Guatemala. The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala also stated that a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent is currently aiding the commission in its investigations.
Although President Colom has fervently denied the murder claims, blaming the scandal on political opponents attempting to weaken his government, Guatemala City has seen three days of protests demanding Colom’s resignation. This incident “has created the greatest political crisis for this democracy, because never before has a democratically elected president been accused of murder,'' the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre was quoted as writing by The New York Times.

The Guatemalan media has greatly contributed to the public outcry caused by Rosenberg’s video. According to the Times, the video was broadcasted multiple times by national television stations and uploaded to several Guatemalan Internet sites, many of which temporarily crashed due to excess traffic. Public opposition toward Colom has also been evidenced in the creation of massive Facebook groups such as ''Guatemalans for the dismissal of Álvaro Colom” which boasts more than 5,300 members.

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Reactions: Guatemalan government seeks support

While protesters assembled outside the National Palace and the presidential residence to demand Colom’s resignation, the Guatemalan president addressed his country on national television, stating that "This government is not alone, this government stands by its people and we are going to defend the rule of law and democracy until the end," The Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, in Washington, Guatemalan Foreign Minister Haroldo Rodas appealed to the Organization of American States for support, arguing that their support is crucial to "preserve the stability and social peace."

So far, Colom has received support from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who believes the scandal to be motivated by “a right-wing conspiracy,” according to AP. Other analysts have suggested that the killing might be linked to military or paramilitary organized crime networks, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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