Lawyer's videotape alleges Guatemalan leader had him killed


THE EXPLOSIVE videotape that has thrown Guatemala into crisis features a lawyer, very much alive, wearing a coat and tie, sitting at a desk.

In a voice calm and clear, he announces: “Good afternoon, my name is Rodrigo Rosenberg Marzano and sadly if you are watching this message, it is because I have been murdered.” He continues: “If you are hearing or seeing this message, it is because I was assassinated by President Alvaro Colom.”

Rosenberg, a respected lawyer with a roster of prominent clients, was killed on Sunday morning in Guatemala City as he rode a bicycle around his neighbourhood. Unknown assailants fired three bullets, and he died on the street.

The video was released at Rosenberg’s funeral on Monday. In the tape, he also blames his death on Guatemala’s first lady, Sandra de Colom, the president’s private secretary and a business partner.

Thousands of Guatemalans have watched the video on various websites, crashing servers overwhelmed by the sudden explosions of traffic.

Protesters, brought together by Facebook, have assembled outside the presidential palace calling for Colom to step aside while the case is investigated.

Colom and his supporters charge that the tape is the concoction of his enemies, including organised crime.

Dina Fernandez, a columnist for El Periodico, wrote: “The government is cornered and the question of the hour is, what are we citizens going to do?”

The video was made with the help, and at the office, of journalist-lawyer Mario David Garcia, who told the newspaper Prensa Libre that Rosenberg had asked him to release the tape if anything happened to him.

In an emergency address to the nation, Colom denied having anything to do with Rosenberg’s death.

“The video is totally false, my conscience is clear,” Colom said. “This government is not guilty of thuggery or assassination.”

Rosenberg says on the tape that he feared for his life because of his work for two clients, Guatemalan businessman Khalil Musa and his daughter Marjorie Musa. Khalil Musa, a wealthy, well-known exporter of coffee and textiles, was named by Colom to the board of directors for the state-owned Rural Development Bank, known as Banrural.

Rosenberg states that Musa was upset when he discovered that Banrural was involved in illicit transactions “ranging from money laundering to the embezzlement of public funds and nonexistent programmes operated by first lady Sandra de Colom, as well as the financing of front companies used by drug traffickers”.

Rosenberg calls Banrural “a den of robbers, drug traffickers and murderers”.

Khalil Musa (74) and Marjorie Musa (49) were shot dead in their car in March by assailants on motorcycles in front of a mall in Guatemala City – a crime that Rosenberg also lays at the president’s feet.

“I knew exactly how Alvaro Colom, Sandra de Colom, Gustavo Alejos and Gregorio Valdez were responsible for that cowardly murder, and I told them so and told those who wanted and could hear,” Rosenberg says on the tape. Alejos is Colom’s private secretary; Valdez, the businessman, supported Colom’s campaign.

To clear his name, Colom has appealed to the US for help. He asked US ambassador Stephen McFarland to bring in the FBI to assist in the investigation of Rosenberg’s murder. McFarland said he would “work with the FBI to see what they can do”.

Colom also asked a UN group, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, to investigate. The head of the panel, Carlos Castresana, said he would work on the case if the government promised not to meddle.

“This is a crisis of institutions of government, a crisis of democracy,” said Frank LaRue, a human rights advocate in Guatemala. “This is the moment when the nation must recover or we will sink.” – ( LA Times-Washington Postservice)