Slain Lawyer's Claims Creates Stir In Guatemala
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel. In Guatemala, a commission backed by the United Nations says it will investigate explosive allegations against the country's president. Those allegations emerged when a Guatemalan lawyer was murdered on Sunday. The local media received a video that Rodrigo Rosenberg had recorded, which began with these chilling words.
Mr. RODRIGO ROSENBERG MARZANO (Lawyer): (Speaking foreign language)
SIEGEL: Good afternoon. My name is Rodrigo Rosenberg Marzano. And if you are watching this video and hearing this message, it is because I was assassinated by President Alvaro Colom.
Rosenberg's accusation from the grave also named the president's wife and two other men. He said that all this had to do with his representation of a Guatemalan businessman name Khalil Musa. Musa and his daughter were murdered in March. President Alvaro Colom has vehemently denied this. But the Rosenberg video led to protests yesterday and today.
And joining us now to talk about it is Juan Carlos Llorca who is Guatemala correspondent for the Associated Press. Welcome to the program.
Mr. JUAN CARLOS LLORCA (Guatemala Correspondent, Associated Press): Hello. How are you?
SIEGEL: First, how significant a development is this in Guatemala? Is it what everyone is talking about in Guatemala City?
Mr. LLORCA: It's certainly the story of the year. It's - everyone is talking about it. And this case poses much more questions now than answers.
SIEGEL: In the video Rodrigo Rosenberg spells out the scheme that he says would result in his murder. In a nutshell, what's it all about?
Mr. LLORCA: It's about him finding that a businessman he was representing was murdered because he refused to participate in a corruption that allegedly was happening in a bank that is state-controlled. And now, when Rosenberg said that he was going to go public, he was threatened, which led him to record a video and then to be killed.
SIEGEL: How did these allegations square with President Alvaro Colom's reputation in Guatemala?
Mr. LLORCA: Well, for one and a half years that President Colom has been president, he has been called many, many things. He's been called a populist. There's been allegations of corruption in some programs in the government. But a murder - a murderer - it's shocking.
SIEGEL: Tell us about Rodrigo Rosenberg. The man prepared this video anticipating the possibility that he would be murdered and he was murdered. But is he otherwise a credible figure? Was he well-known in Guatemala? What would you say?
Mr. LLORCA: He was not a public figure, but he was very well-known in business and lawyer circles. He was a member of the Guatemalan Chamber of Commerce some time ago. And, also, some time ago, he was vice dean of the law school in Universidad Rafael Landivar, one of the most prestigious universities - private universities in Guatemala City. And he was also a corporate lawyer with master degrees both from Harvard and Cambridge.
SIEGEL: Now, I saw that President Alvaro Colom said that he would bring in - he would ask the U.S. to bring in the FBI to investigate this crime. He was confident that he had nothing to do with it. But it's going to be investigated by the U.N. or a commission that is supported by the U.N. What is the commission and do Guatemalans generally believe what it says?
Mr. LLORCA: Well, the commission was created in 2007. It's a U.N. commission of lawyers and investigators that looks into high-profile cases. If it's - has credibility? Well, it has more credibility than the prosecutor's office, the Adminsterio Publico that brings to trial only about three percent of the murder cases that happen every year. And out of that three percent only about half end in conviction.
SIEGEL: Guatemalan democracy is at best a work in progress at this point. Does this threaten the state of Guatemalan democracy?
Mr. LLORCA: It certainly poses a big challenge because the Congress is under question for corruption scandals. The judicial system hasn't been able to elect a president for over six months. They have tried to elect a president over 35 times now and they're not able to do it. And other institutions are under question and lack credibility. And now the executive branch faces an accusation as grave as this. So, yes, it's a crisis.
SIEGEL: Mr. Llorca, thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. LLORCA: Well, thank you for having me.
SIEGEL: That's Juan Carlos Llorca who is Guatemala correspondent for the Associated Press. He spoke to us from Guatemala City.
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