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Guatemala: One man reaches out from the grave to expose the corruption in the nation’s politics

By Mayra Beltran de Daetz

On Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 9:15, three bullets hit the body of 47-year-old lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg while he was riding his bicycle in a residential area of Guatemala City.

Like all crime scenes, in the area was found evidence of the weapon and vehicles. Six were the bullets that the shooters shot into Rosenberg’s body — in the head, in the face, the neck, the left collarbone, the thorax and the abdomen.

That day, it seemed that this death was just another of the deaths that are part of the daily statistics and to which Guatemalans have already become accustomed for that time of day. But there was a big surprise for all of us.

On Monday, May 11, the murder began to generate astonishment mainly because of a scandal being caused by a video recorded by the attorney. The video was recorded on Wednesday, May 6, by Rosenberg and began with an impressive introduction: “If you are seeing this video, it is because I was assassinated…” followed by still more information.

The body of Rodrigo Rosenberg lays covered beside his bicycle after being brutally murdered.

The video’s existence was disclosed by people in Rosenberg’s confidence. The mission of Rosenberg’s confidantes was to present the video in case the death threats against Rosenberg were fulfilled. News of the video began circulating at Rosenberg’s funeral.

In the video, he blamed his death on President Alvaro Colom, the President’s wife Sandra Torres, the presidential secretary, Gustavo Alejos, and two members of the board of directors of Banrural (Fernando Peña, general manager and Jose Angel Lopez, president of the financial organization).

It all originated from the condemnation of the murder of industralist Khalil Musa and his daughter Marjorie Musa. The secretary of President Colom, Gustavo Alejos, proposed that Musa be appointed a position on the board of directors of Banrural. The appointment apparently caused problems in the banking institution. In turn, Musa was assassinated.

Rosenberg names his murderers in a video filmed before his death.

The public’s astonishment, indignation, hate and demand for justice were swiftly made apparent through protest marches and rallies in places like the front of the National Palace and in front of the Municipality of Guatemala.

The people of Guatemala received a call through social networks on the web, like Facebook and Hi5, to gather in front of the National Palace of Culture to demand the resignation of the governor. This call to gather received the approval of many Guatemalans.

While there were rallies in favor of Rosenberg, there were also those in favor of Alvaro Colon which naturally led to a confrontation between the two opposing groups of supporters.

Thousands of Guatemaltecos take to the street to denounce Rosenberg’s murder.

Those in favor of Colon, carried signs saying they supported the President and he should not leave office. Yet, these rallies in favor of the government were the object of much criticism since the government paid the protesters to be there and provided them free transportation to and from the rallies. Of course, all these accusations were denied by the government

Guatemala’s political leaders asked that the President be suspended from his duties during the investigation to avoid any obstruction from the President’s office. But the answer, as everyone saw in a CNN interview, was that only by death would he leave the position.

The Public Ministry notified the central offices of Banrural, (Banrural is a banking institution that work with the state) to hand over the account statements and trusts information of those named by Rosenberg.

Rosenberg supporters gather to march in support of an investigation into the lawyer’s death.

In the declarations of the Public Ministry, it was not explained with clarity if they will investigate the trusts used to finance programs of the Council of Social Cohesion, an organization directed by the President’s wife Sandra Torres. The journalists asked if Sandra Torres would be called by the Public Ministry and they said that the option would remain open.

The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (Cicig) affirmed that they support the investigation of this case.

In the five weeks after the murder of Rodrigo Rosenberg, the protesters continue arriving at the Italy Place to demand full disclosure of the case, a stop to the violence and now are condemning the corrupt civil industrialists.

On May 17, the streets were not as crowded as in the first rallies but the people who continue to protest have not lost the ardor of their convictions. They punctually arrived at 10 in the morning and remained there for several hours under a burning sun.

It is lamentable that already, almost two months after the death of Rosenberg, the investigation is practically forgotten. The case has been left in the hands of the CCIG and the FBI with no participation from local institutions that should be investigating the case.

There are groups of young Guatemalans who continue to fight for the full disclosure of who murdered Mussa and Rosenberg. Yet with more than 4,000 violent deaths that occurred in 2008 alone, there is not much hope that the guilty parties will ever be caught.

It is the desire of all Guatemalans to live peacefully and to recover our Guatemala. That beautiful country in which, if we could wish, we could wake up to very early in the morning and go jog, walk through the main streets of commerce, speak by cellular telephone in any place, and have the peace of mind to leave our children to play with their friends or neighbors without fear of being assaulted or victims of violence, kidnapping or intimidated by people without scruples and who have such a lack of moral values that they don’t even fear God.

If we could wish …

Learn more about Mayra:

Mayra Etna Beltrán Molina de Daetz is a native-born Guatemalan who lives in Guatemala City with her husband and teenage son. After attending one of the most noted secretarial schools in the country, Mayra graduated with a secretarial certification — and the ability to speak and write English, as well as, know French.

Yet, she wanted more of a career and so she took architect and graphic design classes at a local university in Guatemala City. Unable to finish her university studies due to finances, Mayra became a stewardess and has over 100 hours in the air.

Yet, she always wanted to be involved with the media and so she returned to school and was able to get a degree in sales and marketing.

As a result, she has worked for a weekly magazine and a newspaper.

I have had opportunity to attend International congresses, in which I have known very important people at the more important international newspapers, which has been a very gratifying experience and has allowed me to have friendships outside of my country.

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