When Rodrigo Rosenberg turned up dead on Mother’s Day in an upscale neighborhood in Guatemala City, his murder was seen as little more than another execution-style shooting in one of Latin America’s most dangerous countries. Now, after a video emerged in which Rosenberg accused Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom of orchestrating the murder, the killing has sparked civic unrest that threatens to topple the President of this fledgling democracy.
Thousands of protesters have demonstrated daily in front of the presidential palace, calling for Colom’s resignation. And politicians have said Colom should step aside during the investigation into Rosenberg’s death. “This is the most serious political crisis the country has faced since the signing of the peace accords” in 1996, said Anita Isaacs, a Haverford College political science professor who studies democratization in Guatemala. “The country is hanging on by a thread.”
The video spread across the Internet after family members handed it out during Rosenberg’s funeral on Monday. In the 18-minute tape, a seemingly calm Rosenberg, sitting behind a desk and microphone, alleges that Colom, the First Lady and two associates were involved in murder, corruption and money laundering. The group, he says, filtered public funds through a state-owned bank for personal gain and to finance drug traffickers. Rosenberg then claims that after Khalil Musa, a prominent businessman and bank board member, had learned of the Coloms’ scheme, Musa and his daughter were shot to death in front of a shopping center in April. Rosenberg says the President signed off on the killings.
On Sunday, Rosenberg was shot in the head while riding his bicycle. In the previously recorded video, he declares, “If you are watching this message, it is because I was assassinated by President Alvaro Colom, with help from [presidential secretary] Gustavo Alejos … I knew exactly how [they] were responsible for that cowardly murder [of Musa], and I told them so and told those who wanted and could hear it.”