The killing of a prominent lawyer led to hundreds of people marching in the capital of Guatemala in order to demand the resignation of the country’s president (photo, from bbc.co.uk), who vehemently denied any involvement.
On Wednesday, some 1,500 people walked to Constitution Plaza in Guatemala City, saying Alvaro Colom should step down. At the same time, around 600 counter-protesters nearby marched in support of the president.
The release of a videotape triggered the protests. It shows lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg saying that if he got killed it would be on Colom’s orders.
Guatemalans “cannot allow these people to continue doing what they want with our country”, said Ricardo Flores Asturias, one of the protesters and brother of a former politician.“The video is totally false, my conscience is clear”, Mr Colom said, and rejected calls for his resignation.
He told reporters that he was seeking help from the UN and the FBI to investigate Mr Rosenberg’s killing.
Mr Rosenberg’s recording had “created the most serious political crisis for this democracy, because never before has a democratically elected president been accused of direct or indirect involvement in a murder”, said an editorial in the Prensa Libre newspaper.
Mr Rosenberg’s video was distributed on Monday.“If you are watching this message, it is because I was assassinated by President Alvaro Colom with help from Gustavo Alejos [the president’s private secretary],” he said.
Mr Rosenberg was shot dead on Sunday, while riding his bicycle in the capital.
‘Because I was assassinated’
On Wednesday, the Organisation of American States (OAS), gave its support to president Colom. The Washington-based organisation passed a resolution approving support for Mr Colom’s administration “in its obligation to preserve the institutions of democracy and the rule of law”.
Audio recordings of Mr Rosenberg’s tape was distributed to local media at his funeral, said Juan Luis Font, the director of El Periodico newspaper.
Later, video of the statement was posted on the YouTube website.
“If you are watching this message, it is because I was assassinated by President Alvaro Colom with help from Gustavo Alejos [the president’s private secretary]“, said Mr Rosenberg on his video (photo, from aljazeera.net).
Still on the tape, Mr Rosenberg says that officials might want to kill him since he represented a businessman allegedly killed because he had refused to engage in acts of corruption that Mr Colom purportedly invited him to participate in.
On April 15, Khalil Musa, a leading Guatemalan businessman, and his daughter, Marjorie Musa, were shot dead in the country, because he was going to reveal government corruption.
‘Not a thug or a drug lord’
On Monday, president Colom went on national television with his ministers to “categorically reject the accusations” and say a full and speedy investigation would be held.
The Guatemalan president again rejected the charges during a news conference on Tuesday.
“I’m not a thug or a drug lord”, said Mr Colom, adding that he had no idea what had motivated Mr Rosenberg to make the video. He suggested that both the murder and the video were a reaction to his attempts to tackle organised crime.
“The death of attorney Rosenberg has been used by political opportunists and traditional conspirators linked to organised crime to confuse public opinion and attack the top authorities”, he said.
The country’s president said he had asked for help from the FBI and also from a UN agency known as the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Created in 2007, the commission’s aim is to tackle widespread corruption in the country.