There is a moment in the movie Rashomon when the woodcutter, priest, and commoner are at the temple and all you hear is the sound of a crying baby that has been abandoned in a basket. The commoner takes what was left for the baby, the woodcutter reproaches him for stealing, but the commoner asks him about the woman’s dagger; the woodcutter does not reply and slowly a truth emerges: that the woodcutter is also thief because he stole the knife used in the murder of the samurai. The commoner than states that all men are selfish, and all men are looking out for themselves in the end. The priest’s faith in humanity is tested and truth becomes a many layered thing. So it has been with my native Guatemala over the years, my faith always tested against an always changing and malleable truth. More recently my faith has been tested in the last few days as yet again there is a complicated web woven when fools do promise to deceive.
It’s a very disturbing set of stories coming out of Guatemala, the video makes it all the more disturbing, but the Twitter arrest a few days ago makes democratic processes all the more laughable. But first to a Guatemalan lawyer who was killed on Sunday who made a video before his death alleging that he might be assassinated and that if he was, it would be the work of President Colom.
“If I’ve learned anything about Guatemalan politics over the years,” said Thomas Offit, a colleague from the Guatemala Scholar Network, “is that there are layers and layers of complexity that are difficult to penetrate from outside. There are almost always multiple plausible explanations for specific events, ranging from personal issues through a variety of political scenarios. In this case, conservative anti-Colom forces are already in the street seeking to overthrow the regime, or at least demanding he resign, almost as if they had been preparing for the occasion; perhaps to the Guatemalan right, which is pretty good at this sort of thing historically, Rosenberg became a good foil because of his earlier statements on corruption. What makes this scenario difficult to accept is the content of the video, which couldn’t have been coerced.”
It is true that just because he taped allegations of corruption doesn’t mean he was killed by the people he claims in the video would have done so. There are other possibilities, so many of them: lower level government people who really are living on corruption, or the “poderes ocultos” of the drug world, could be military and/or drug people concerned about Rosenberg’s allegations, could be someone he owed money to.
From another scholar on the network:
“Efectivamente, la situación es mucho más compleja de lo que creemos. Sólo quiero aclarar que no sólo son los ricos y conservadores los que no están de acuerdo con el gobierno de Colón sino también los que tenemos un pensamiento liberal y pertenecemos a la clase media. En mi caso, voté por él porque no podía imaginar tener a un militar nuevamente en el poder. Sin embargo, durante estos meses veo con mucha preocupación la manera en que han manejado los fondos públicos con millonarias transferencias a los programas que maneja Sandra de Colón en Cohesión Social. Reparten alimentos, juguetes, maquillaje y juguetes. Están formando una plataforma política, quizás para colocarla como candidata presidencial en las próximas elecciones (tipo Krishner en Argentina). Existen muchos señalamientos de corrupción pero comprobarlos con el sistema igualmente corrupto que tenemos es muy difícil. Ayer transportaron a los alcaldes en aviones privados contratados y el mensaje es que si no apoyan no podrán contar con los fondos de los proyectos de desarrollo en los que ya están comprometidos. Cada vez que hay problemas empiezan a polarizar a la población, ricos contra pobres y como ustedes saben esto es muy peligroso. Si una persona tiene una casa ya es considerado rico y si no apoya al gobierno entonces es enemigo no sólo del gobierno sino también de los pobres. Toda la publicidad de las obras del gobierno aparece bajo el lema “Gobierno de Álvaro Colón” y no “Gobierno de Guatemala” como debería ser.
I also agree with another member on the Guatemala Scholar’s Network that it’s important to note the situation has gone beyond the scope of what the Guatemala can effectively handle to administer justice in this matter. Colom himself has asked for help as written in the Miami Herald from international bodies (FBI, UN) in investigating the Rosenberg murder. It also reports that CICIG (internat’l committee against impunity) will investigate. Colom isn’t silent on the accusations against him.
“I agree with Trudeau about the quagmire of accusations/corruption/politics but I’m suspicious of quickly labeling the protests against Colom (there was one yesterday, for example, in Z.1) as conservative. There’s a strong sentiment of being fed-up with the violence in Guatemala and this is also a failure one of Colom’s central platforms (remember also that his closest opponent was military man Perez Molina –of that cloying campaign song of “mano dura, cabeza y corazon”–and so Colom’s victory was also painted as a victory for “civil” society). My impression is that civil society is sick of it–not only of people getting shot in the head but of the multiplicity of “possible explanations” for each murder.
I’m interested to see what CICIG will do. I am critical of that institution because if I’m remembering right they only took on 6 initial cases to investigate and a glaring omission was that of the Salvadoran diplomats. I’m pretty sure they also skirted the whole milieu of adoption corruption (which could potentially implicate the U.S. embassy).”
The last thing I know will emerge from this is an administered justice from within Guatemala. At the very least, I hope Guatemala morale as low as it is already, will survive.
This is the cilmate I will be driving into four months from now.