Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 342 | Enero 2010



What Does the Rosenberg Case Show Us?

Rodrigo Rosenberg planned his own death. The unexpected conclusions of the CICIG investigation created quite a stir in Guatemala and also threw light on the violence to which Guatemala’s privileged classes resort. Violent crimes are not limited to the poor, youth gangs or drug dealers. Extortion, hit men and networks of silence and complicity are also present in society’s upper echelons.

Juan Hernández Pico, SJ

The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a UN organization entrusted by the Guatemalan Congress with investigating serious crimes that threaten to go unpunished and to act as joint plaintiff with the Public Ministry in court cases, hit the international headlines when it published the results of its investigation into the violent death of Rodrigo Rosenberg. Previously, the CICIG had been in the headlines when it achieved the acceptance of a large number of its vetoes against new Supreme Court members presented for election by Congress.

The violence used by the Guatemalan upper class

While they will not constitute a final ruling until they have been upheld in court after the defense case has also been heard, the CICIG’s conclusions in the Rosenberg case still merit analysis and reflection.

Perhaps the most important element of the CICIG’s conclusions in the Rosenberg case is that they show how high up in society the violence in Guatemala has reached. They lead us to seriously consider that violent crime is not the exclusive province of common criminals raised in the lowest levels of society, referred to as the lumpen proletariat by some analysts; youth gangs or drug traffickers and their cartels and private armies; those who promote and carry out the lynching of youth delinquents; or corrupt police. Violent crimes are also a possibility for members of the country’s upper classes, businessmen or distinguished professionals who can buy hit men to rid themselves of others and thus take justice—or injustice—into their own hands if it suits them.

And this is not a new development. In 1999, the Historical Clarification Commission stated in points 144-146 of its conclusions on the internal armed conflict:

“144. …In connection with the armed confrontation, individual citizens also committed acts of violence in defense of their own interests, either instigating such actions or participating directly in them. These perpetrators were usually economically powerful on the national or local level.

“145. In many cases of human rights violations committed in rural areas there was participation from large farm owners. Some of these violations were carried out in conjunction with state agents to violently resolve conflicts with local peasants. On other occasions, although the action was carried out by state agents or hired assassins, the motive was to protect the interests of these landowners.

“146. In urban areas, diverse human rights violations that affected union members and labor advisors and were carried out by state agents or people acting under their protection and with their tolerance or acquiescence were based on the close collaboration between powerful businesspeople and the Security Forces. These violations were committed to protect business interests, in accordance with openly anti-trade union government policies.”

Rosenberg planned
his own murder

On January 12, seven months after the assassination of Rodrigo Rosenberg, Carlos Castresana, the Spanish prosecutor and judge commissioned by the CICIG, stated in a press conference that Rosenberg had planned his own assassination. This unexpected conclusion shocked public opinion and led to long and profuse blogs in the media’s electronic pages. About half of those participating believed the conclusions—”the CICIG set an example for justice in this country”—while the rest thought the CICIG was covering up for Colom and misleading the public, even comparing him to the 15th-century Spanish conquistadors by asking, “Carlos Castresana, are you trying to sell us mirrors?” The vast majority of private institutions and people with clear judgment and public prestige, including all of the pro-justice and human rights organizations and the media, agreed with the quality of the investigation and praised the scientific tracking of the evidence. President Colom was quick to comment on the conclusions, with evident relief and, at times, triumphalism.

The main thread
of the investigation

Castresana talked clearly about Rosenberg’s deteriorating psychological state. The word he used was “despair.” Since his death, there had been a lot of talk in the circles close to Rosenberg about his suffering from bi-polar personality disorder. In the days leading up to his assassination there were many things weighing on his mind, including his second divorce and the fact that his ex-wife had taken their children off with her to Mexico. There was also the recent death of his mother and, finally, the assassination of Khalis Musa and his second daughter, Marjorie, a married woman who was having an affair with Rosenberg with thoughts of marriage. Castresana said that Rosenberg, who “felt guilty for the assassination of the Musas,” initiated “a desperate investigation everywhere to find the Musas’ assassins” without coming up with any evidence. In the days before his assassination, Rosenberg sent an e-mail to a woman friend saying “he was gradually falling apart, dying.”

This was the thread that led the CICIG investigators out of the labyrinth that Rodrigo Rosenberg’s assassination seemed to have become. According to Castresana, the CICIG received maximum cooperation from both the Rosenberg family and the Rosenberg-Marzano-Marroquin law firm of which Rosenberg was the main associate. The inventory of his papers included no evidence to support the accusations Rosenberg made in the video published after his assassination. Castresana stated that Rosenberg was full of “despair and misinformation.”

At the crime scene

The timely examination of the crime scene was important. It was implausible that a person receiving death threats, as Rosenberg stated in the video, would go out alone for a bicycle ride on the Sunday morning before he was to leave the country to escape the threat. The way his body was found indicated that Rosenberg was sitting on the sidewalk listening to music. He chose to be a perfect, immobile target.

The CICIG found four security cameras installed in various buildings in the area in which the crime was committed. By watching the tapes, they were able to identify part of Rosenberg’s bike ride and the arrival of the three vehicles the hit men were driving. One of them was later caught on tape in the residential area of Villa Hermosa by a municipal government Metropolitan Transit Company camera, and they were able to trail it. The vehicle’s owner was traced and it was found to be registered to William Gilbert Santo Divas, a former National Police officer.

By investigating nearby antenna communications, they also established that one of the two cell phones used by Santos Divas was in communication with someone in the area of the crime scene. Further investigation of the cell phone traffic showed that thirteen other telephones were in communication in the area. Analysis of the communications led to the identification of the members of the criminal organization that committed the assassination on September 8, 2009. Once they were arrested, 30 more cell phones were seized and their owners traced, allowing the investigators to establish the name of the intermediary between the group and the person that contracted them for the assassination: José Manuel Cardona Medina.

Studying another telephone that was in communication at the crime scene on the day of the assassination enabled the investigators to locate and arrest Cardona Medina, the cousin of another member of the group who had already been arrested. Another member, Lucas Josué Santiago López, confessed to having been the only person who shot at the target, without knowing it was Rosenberg, killing him with five bullets—three in the head, one in the neck and the other in the throat.

Rosenberg’s itinerary of despair

The investigation concentrated on examining the cell phone from which the threats were made and the hitmen were contacted. Rosenberg’s driver, Luis López Florián, told the investigators that his boss had asked him to buy two cell phones with receipts to the final consumer. Although Florián was told to buy them in two different stores, he bought them in the same mall, La Pradera, and was filmed by two of its security cameras.

Rosenberg kept one of these telephones and started to plan his own assassination. The CICIG discovered that between April 20 and May 10, Rosenberg complained to his employees at the law firm that “there’s no justice in Guatemala,” referring to the Musas’ assassination; bought two plots in a private cemetery, one for himself and the other for Marjorie Musa; drew up his will; left one of his law associates in charge of the law firm; ordered his driver to buy the two cell phones (on May 5); spoke with his friend Luis Mendizábal about the call he had received from Gustavo Alejos, the Presidency’s private secretary, demanding that Rosenberg stop spreading the rumor that the government had assassinated the Musas; and granted control of his possessions to his children with his first wife (on May 6).

On May 6 he lunched with a priest friend, with whom he shared his three heartaches: the emotional one caused by Marjorie’s death, the emotional and economic one caused by his ex-wife demanding US$10,000 a month for him to see his children, and the threats hanging over him. During this same period of time he met with several friends, crying inconsolably about the guilt he felt for Marjorie’s assassination and telling them about the threats against him for investigating “big cases.” On May 9 he turned over to Luis Mendizábal three boxes containing CDs of the video in which he blamed President Colom, Colom’s wife Sandra Torres, Gustavo Alejos, and various businessmen and bankers for his possible assassination, and told Mendizábal he was planning to travel to Washington.

What this case shows us

Meanwhile, Rosenberg contacted the brothers Francisco Valdés Paiz and José Estuardo Valdés Paiz, who were friends of his and cousins of his first wife. He informed them that he was being blackmailed and asked for their help to “get one over” the extortionist by killing him. The CICIG has ascertained that these two friends of Rosenberg asked their bodyguard, Nelson Wilfredo Santos Estrada, to help hire hitmen to take care of the “matter.” Santos Estrada contacted Jesús Manuel Cardona Medina, who, according to the newspaper Prensa Libre, contracted “the whole criminal organization led by William Gilberto Santos Divas.” Another Metropolitan Transit Company camera recorded a pick-up truck in which Santos Estrada and Cardona Medina were traveling together on Hincapié Avenue. After their capture, Cardona Medina—the intermediary—and the other two members of the group became “efficacious collaborators,” a legal concept that establishes them as protected witnesses and implies they will probably receive a reduced sentence.

Both Rosenberg’s request to “get one over” the extortionist and the alleged collaboration of the Valdés Paiz brothers in killing a man whose true identity they didn’t know reveal the criminal way the upper classes resolve their problems. It also shines light on that horrendous euphemism “social cleansing.”

The dramatic climax

Rosenberg kept one of the cell phones that his driver had bought (with the number 57759747) and gave the other (53720265) to one of the Valdés Paiz brothers to take to the hit men. Rosenberg used his phone to call his home phone number several times to leave messages with threats from the “extortionist.” Castresana confirmed at the press conference that “in accordance with the coverage readings done by radio frequency engineers, it is ‘highly probable’ that the cell phone used to make threats made and received calls from inside Rosenberg’s apartment.”

On May 9, the day before he was killed, Rosenberg called Marjorie Musa’s sister, Aziza, and told her “I’m going to take a long bike ride to relax.” He then used his cell phone—with the 57759747 number—to call the 53720265 number, which he knew was in the hands of the hit men, telling them the itinerary of the cyclist—the supposed “extortionist”—detailing what he would be wearing and when he would be in a suitable place for the crime. Shortly after the drama reached its climax.

A job worth $40,000

The CICIG reported that on May 11 a check for $40,000 from the financial company Durling & Durling, signed by former communications minister Luis Alejos, arrived at the Rosenberg law offices from Panama. According to the newspaper Siglo XXI, Alejos later explained that this was related to a debt he had with his business partner Rosenberg. Rosenberg had left instructions with his secretary to turn the check over to Francisco Valdés Paiz to pay the hit men. Since she was at Rosenberg’s burial on May 11, she received and delivered the check on May 12. Valdés had it in his hands on the 13th, but was so frightened that he destroyed it. He had already paid the hit men 300,000 quetzals—the equivalent of $40,000—”with money from his company” (El Periódico) or “from his own pocket” (Siglo XXI).

Prensa Libre stated that “according to Castresana, the Valdés brothers offered to plan ‘someone’s’ death and are therefore implicated in the murder and will be allowed access to the file once they appear in court.” Castresana had requested—and the judge had agreed—to maintain “sub judice” until January 11, 2010, and the CICIG’s conclusions were made public on January12. The Valdés Paiz brothers’ defense team argues that, according to the Guatemalan penal code, the defendants actually had the right for their lawyers to see the file from the moment the charges were made against them and not just from the moment they appeared in court. They point out that Castresana is still trying to restrict the defendants’ rights in this respect based on Spanish penal law.

“There was no conspiracy”

Two of Rosenberg’s friends, prominent lawyer Mario Fuentes Destarac and wealthy businessman Jorge Briz, a former foreign minister under President Berger, heard Rosenberg talking about being the victim of “extortion” and they advised him to leave the country immediately. Another friend, Luis Mendizábal—former clandestine operator of “La Oficinita,” responsible for covering up criminal responsibilities and linked to the presidential general staff—and radio journalist Mario David García recommended that he record a video. Mendizábal also advised him to leave the country. The video was recorded in the law offices of Mario David García and Associates, since Mendizábal had recommended that García should shoot it. It was shot and reproduced on May 7, 2009, less than three days before the murder.

In spite of this, Castresana denied the existence of any type of conspiracy: “There is no politician, state official or police chief involved in this. There was no conspiracy. Rosenberg acted alone and paid the price with his blood.” According to El Periódico, Castresana also stated that “the Rosenberg family asked me to speak about Rodrigo Rosenberg’s integrity, if I really believed in it, and I do… It was a desperate act on Rodrigo’s part to find justice.”

Loose links

Castresana also announced that during the course of the investigations they had discovered that then Government Minister Salvador Gándara—who has since recovered the Villanueva mayor’s office, to which he was elected—tried to mislead the CICIG by buying a false witness, who refused to take a polygraph test. The idea was for the witness to accuse figures in the Patriotic Party (PP)—in particular former presidential candidate Otto Pérez Molina and Roxana Baldetti, the head of the PP parliamentary bench—of planning Rosenberg’s murder with the aim of ultimately putting the blame on President Colom and people near him. Castresana stated that it was up to the Public Ministry to determine who was responsible for these actions, thus leaving this particular link loose.

Castresana also clarified that the CICIG cannot give a thorough report on the investigation into the assassinations of Khalil Musa and his daughter, Marjorie. Among other reasons, this is precisely because it was Rosenburg’s murder that gave rise to the hypothesis that both crimes were connected and, since the Rosenberg crime occurred a month after the Musa murders, the CICIG arrived on the Musa crime scene a month after it was committed, which explains the delay in the investigations.

And finally, Castresana stressed that his presentation did not signify the end of the case. “We consider this phase closed,” he said. “We believe that those responsible for Rodrigo Rosenberg’s death are those people we already mentioned—the hit men and the intellectual authors. But the case will be completely closed when the courts give their sentences.”

Colom: “The people
will hold them to account”

The reactions of those supposedly implicated in Rosenberg’s death weren’t long in coming. President Álvaro Colom soon appeared before the media in the National Palace of Culture’s Peace Yard accompanied by First Lady Sandra Torres and Gustavo Alejos, his private secretary and financial manager of his election campaign. His official statement contained the following words: “During my 58 years, my deep Catholic faith has taught me that good always wins over bad… On May 11 of last year we were accused of a tragic death, without proof or grounds. During these months I have waited in silence and with great patience for this day when finally this crime is clarified….”

Only the president spoke. After congratulating the Public Ministry and CICIG for their work, he thanked his wife and private secretary: “I want to thank Sandra and Gustavo for their courage in the face of this ordeal during eight months of infamy.” He did not comment on the accusation against his former Government Minister, Salvador Gándara, for having supposedly planted a false witness to divert the suspicion of Rosenberg’s assassination onto his opponents, the leaders of the Patriotic Party. Instead he recognized that the Rosenberg case “shook Guatemala.”

A day later on his radio program, Presidential Dispatch, he reacted to a listener who asked him to please not act the victim. “Our friend tells me not to act the victim, but in fact I was the victim, I’m not playing it. It was not just me but also the state of Guatemala.” Colom went further and accused his opposition of “exploiting the crisis generated by the Rosenberg case… There are supposedly national leaders that took things too far; they have no discretion, just the weakness of opportunism.” And the President even warned his adversaries that “At a certain point, the people will call them on this, due to their opportunism… The people will hold them to account.” He ended by asserting, “Guatemala has taken a step against impunity.” Days later Colom was still saying that legal charges of “sedition” might be filed against these opportunistic adversaries.

Colom in the polls

Álvaro Colom’s ambitions to link up with the legacy of both his assassinated social democratic uncle, Manuel Colom Argueta, and the democratizing Guatemalan Revolution (1944-54), are reflected in the title of his weekly radio program, as “Presidential Dispatch” was also the title President Juan José Arévalo (1945-51) gave his memoirs, published in 1998.

The survey on Latin American leaders conducted by Mitofsky Consultants and published in January 2010 gives Colom
an intermediate evaluation, with 46% approval, while Vox Latina rates him at 43% and Borge y Asociados gives him 5.1 out of 10. Of the seven civilian Presidents since 1986 (excluding Jorge Serrano who was elected in 1991, mounted a Fujimori-style auto-coup in 1993 that, lacking army support, failed, causing him to flee to Panama), only Alfonso Portillo (2000-2004) had such low ratings. So ambitions do not always dovetail with reality.

Pending cases

The media have warned President Colom not to brag prematurely or be triumphal, as the Musa case is still to be investigated, along with Salvador Gándara’s actions while government minister. And there’s also the case of the National Registry (RENAP).

Guatemala is currently in the process of replacing the old “neighborhood identity cards” issued by municipal governments, which are easily alterable or even forgeable. This initiative is undeniably important because issuing identity cards registers the population, which can use it to vote and to leave or enter the country. RENAP, which is issuing the new personal electronic identity documents, or DPIs, is therefore both a modernizing necessity and a lucrative business. When Rosenberg accused President Colom, the First Lady, the Presidency’s private secretary and businessman Gregorio Valdés, he was alluding not only to the Musa case, but also, according to Castresana, to Colom’s replacement of Government Minister Francisco Jiménez with Salvador Gándara at the end of 2008, presumably to facilitate the awarding of the RENAP operation to Valdés’ Easy Marketing company.

The main competition was Luis Mendizábal, for whose “information” work RENAP would provide the best possible database. Rosenberg was friend and lawyer to Mendizábal, whose La Luz company was already responsible for issuing passports. When Valdés won the RENAP public tender, Rosenberg put his driver, Luis López Florián, at the head of a new company, Landosa Digital S.A., to file an appeal with the Constitutional Court on behalf of La Luz. The appeal was successful and the RENAP public tender was awarded to Mendizábal.

Following Castresana’s press conference, Valdés published a communiqué in the media stating that the truth will always out and that he has never been interested in running the business side of passport applications.

The Musa murders
is an explosive case

The background to the Musa case could prove explosive. Khalil Musa, a 74-year-old industrialist, textile importer and coffee grower, was murdered in his car on April 14, 2009. In the car with him was his 47-year-old daughter, Marjorie, who was killed by a ricocheted bullet and does not appear to have been a target of the hit men.

It appears that Khalil Musa was a board member of both the National Coffee Association (Anacafé) and the Rural Development Bank (Banrural), the latter at the request of President Colom, and that Rodrigo Rosenberg advised him to resign both seats. According to Castresana, Rosenberg’s papers included only two letters referring to Musa, in one of which, in Castresana’s words, “he [Rosenberg] obtains information about Khalil’s naming” to the board of directors of Anacafé and Banrural, while the other is Khalil’s resignation from the posts. This obviously does not amount to any proof of the accusations in Rosenberg’s video, which claim that Musa resigned because he didn’t want to be an accomplice in Banrural’s alleged corrupt financial operations. Castresana stated that Rosenberg’s feeling of guilt came from the fact that, as the Musas’ legal representative, “it was he who recommended that Khalil resign from the post they had offered him in Anacafé and Banrural and that he had accepted.”

The Musa case is so explosive because the Guatemalan government had deposited in Banrural a fair number of trust funds it uses to support many of its public programs. These apparently include 53 accounts for Social Cohesion, a body directed by Colom’s wife, Sandra Torres. She personally deposited in Banrural the trust funds of two populist and popular government programs run by Social Cohesion, “My Family Progresses” and the Solidarity Social Fund. According to the CICIG, which is still investigating—the funds are related to “200,000 insufficiently identified beneficiaries with a lot of cash payments.”

Sandra Torres’ candidacy?

These trust funds were apparently first offered to Banco Industrial, Guatemala’s most important bank, which rejected them. The rumor doing the rounds in Guatemala—which might be as unfounded as Rosenberg’s accusations to blame his own murder on others—is that Torres is siphoning off part of these funds to form the main autonomous financial support for her probable presidential candidacy and accompanying electoral campaign.

Unfortunately Rosenberg made these suspicions appear certainties, leading to accusations that the President, the First Lady and the presidency’s private secretary had killed Khalil Musa—and inadvertently his daughter as well—to stop him publicly denouncing the alleged discoveries he made in Banrural.

Naturally, in the two years (2008-2009) in which Guatemala has suffered the brutal impact of the world financial and economic crisis, the Social Cohesion projects just happen to be the only programs that have cushioned the suffering of Guatemala’s impoverished classes, among other things acting as a palliative to the serious drop in remittances sent home by Guatemalan migrants living abroad. This makes them strong political capital for Torres’ probable presidential candidacy in 2011.

A survey conducted by Borge y Asociados for the newspaper El Periódico shows that at the moment 20.6% of those polled intend to vote for retired General Otto Pérez Molina, the presidential candidate Colom defeated in 2007, an intention that has dropped from 29.9% since January 2009. Sandra Torres is in second place with 9.5%, closely followed by former presidential candidate Eduardo Suger (7%). The results of the Vox Latina opinion poll for Prensa Libre indicate that 60.7% of the population has a good opinion of the “My Family Progresses” program (35.8% has a bad opinion) and 40.4% would agree with Sandra Torres being a presidential candidate in 2011 (58.6% disagree).

A number of political and economic analysts are convinced that Torres would beat out Pérez Molina, although they also believe she would be defeated by other probable candidates, such as the evangelical Harold Caballeros or Alejandro Giammatei.

A conflict of interests

According to an article by Luis Solano in Inforpress Centroamericana, Banrural has become the second largest bank in recent years in terms of deposits, the third largest in terms of assets and the bank with the most branches in Guatemala’s departments. In other words, it is one of the most profitable banks. All of this is based on the Report of Guatemala’s Superintendence of Banks (SIB). According to another report by the International Organization for Migrations, Banrural controls 75% of the remittances that pass through the country’s banking system. Seen in the complex context of the Guatemalan banking system since banks as important as Bancafé started going bankrupt during Oscar Berger’s presidential period (2004-2008), internal problems in Banrural have given rise to another hypothesis about Musa’s murder.

It centers on the different interests that converge in Banrural, whose suspicious management, lack of transparency and even corruption Khalil Musa was allegedly discovering. Banrural started in 1997 as the successor to the State Agricultural Development Bank (Bandesa), and the state originally had 30% of its shares, the cooperative movement 20%, peasant and indigenous organizations 20%, nonprofit entities 10%, associations of small and micro businesses 10%, and a fund for paying labor liabilities to former Bandesa employees the remaining 10%.

In total, then, the State, the cooperative movement and peasant and indigenous organizations accounted for 70% of the original capital. In contrast, the other big banks in the system—Banco Industrial, Granai & Townson Continental, Agro Mercantil and El Reformador—clearly represent the power of business capital. Meanwhile, traditional private capital is represented in Anacafé, together with cooperative capital. Thus the scene is set for a conflict of interests.

The strange investment
in Wachovia Bank

When in his video Rosenberg denounced both José Angel López Camposeco, president of the Banrural financial group and originally a cooperative coffee grower, and Banrural president Adolfo Fernando Peña, the business umbrella organization known as CACIF hurriedly sought to subject Banrural to an independent audit by the Superintendence of Banks. It seems López Camposeco let it be known that Banrural would be open to such an audit but would also demand audits of the other banks in the system. That brought the insistence on auditing Banrural to a quick halt. Rosenberg’s accusations, however, did lead some network users to suggest that the best punishment for those accused would be to withdraw deposits from Banrural and force a monumental crisis in its financial structures.

Luis Solano stated in his Inforpress article that Musa corresponded with coffee grower and cooperative member Gerardo de León, another person accused in Rosenberg’s video who was also the State’s representative in Anacafé. In addition, Musa mentioned the burning down of the La Esmeralda farm, which apparently belonged to his relatives, and funds to the tune of $11.5 million that Anacafé supposedly invested abroad. Those funds were allegedly invested in Wachovia Bank in the United States, when Wachovia was already in serious danger of going under. A small group of coffee growers denounced this Anacafé irregularity to the Comptroller of Accounts in September 2008. Gerardo de León resigned from his involvement in Anacafé as a result of the publicity caused by Rosenberg’s video. Castresana said he is still investigating the coffee sector’s trust funds in Banrural, Anacafé’s investments in Wachovia Bank and the credits issued to the Federation of Coffee-Grower Cooperatives of Guatemala.

Other hypotheses

There are yet other hypotheses about Musa’s murder. According to one, thieves who had stolen trucks containing merchandise for his company, on which he collected from the insurance company, allegedly murdered him after he refused to pay for the stolen merchandise when they sold it back to him.

Another hypothesis mentioned by a couple of analysts and the vox populi rumor mill is the least substantiated and most scandalous of all, and if true would generate a situation similar to the results of CICIG’s investigations into Rosenberg’s murder. According to this one, Khalil Musa’s death was a desperate act by his daughter Marjorie. He had already disinherited his eldest daughter, Aziza, for disobeying him in personal affairs and was allegedly threatening Marjorie, a married woman, with the same treatment if she disobeyed him and continued her love affair with Rosenberg. Marjorie allegedly hired hit men to murder her father, her own death resulting from the unlucky ricochet of a bullet not aimed at her.

As was the case a few months ago when we wrote in envío about the threads that could help us find a way out of the apparent labyrinth of Rosenberg’s murder, we are just writers trying to make headway through the violent events that repeatedly batter the Guatemalan population. Only a firm stance in the fight for justice against impunity and the results of the serious and competent investigations carried out by the CICIG allowed us to find a way out of that labyrinth. And we can only hope that they keep doing it.

The media reaction

The media want to come out of this smelling of roses, claiming that they were extremely cautious in their treatment of the Rosenberg case and the accusations made in his video.

So let’s take a look at what they published when Rosenberg died. On May 12, Prensa Libre wrote the following in its editorial: “The government has got it wrong again by asserting that sectors interested in destabilizing and generating psychosis are murdering men and women—which is true, but difficult to apply in this case—and that the intention is to create a political crisis with a view to conspiracy. It is not logical that someone like lawyer Rosenberg, known for his broad professional career and quality, could devise such a plan. That means that in his view there were valid reasons to suspect his own murder, which unfortunately occurred.”

We’ll leave it to the reader to judge whether this extract gives the benefit of the doubt to President Colom and the others who were accused in Rosenberg’s video, and whether or not Rodrigo Rosenberg’s credibility was stressed in response to Colom’s firm denial that he had participated in the events attributed to him.

El Periódico, meanwhile, concluded a May 13 editorial titled “Enough impunity: a watershed for the government” with
the following paragraph: “In any case, Rodrigo’s repudiable murder has come to represent a watershed for the Colom government, as starting from now it has lost its authority to govern and, in the best of cases, will be destined to drift towards passing the baton on to the next President. As for the political career of doña Sandra, it has quite simply been liquidated.”

We’ll also leave it up to the reader to judge the serenity and impartiality of these statements.

Was there really
no conspiracy at all?

It seems to us that Castresana’s statement that it’s impossible to talk about a conspiracy or plot in the Rosenberg case does not consider the actions of Rosenberg’s friend Luis Mendizábal, who advised him to leave a testimony of his denunciations then distributed the videos during Rosenberg’s burial. It also ignores the actions of journalist Mario David García, who stated that he had filmed the video and said on his “Let’s Speak Straight” radio program on the Emisoras Unidas station that “I was the one who recorded the video. Don’t go around investigating stupid things, look for the criminals.” Mario David García made the following comments about Castresana’s declarations: “I’m surprised, as are many Guatemalans. Castresana really contributed very interesting underpinnings that indicate proper investigation. It’s interesting that he dismisses the alledged conspiracy to overthrow the government.”

Dr. Castresana clearly indicated that producing a video is not a crime. But it is obvious that producing this particular video and distributing it apparently without asking the person in it to present proof to back up his accusations was at the very least sowing winds that could only reap political whirlwinds in Guatemala’s fragile democratic institutionality.

Juan Hernández Pico, sj, is the envío correspondent in Guatemala.

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