UN: Guatemala attorney orchestrated own killing

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GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A Guatemalan lawyer who accused the country’s president of his murder in a video made before his death actually contracted the hitmen to kill him, U.N. investigators announced Tuesday.

Attorney Rodrigo Rosenberg contacted cousins of his first wife to help him find a hitman to deal with an extortionist — when he really was orchestrating his own slaying amid severe personal problems, according to a special international group commissioned by the government.

“We have to conclude that it was Rodrigo Rosenberg himself who asked for help from … intimate friends and said to them: ‘I have an extortionist who is threatening me and I want to kill him,'” said Carlos Castresana, head of the probe into the May 10 killing. “They received his request and looked for someone capable.”

Castresana said evidence shows Rosenberg bought two cellular phones: one to communicate with his killers and another to deliver threatening messages to his own personal phone.

Distress over personal problems and Rosenberg’s suspicion that the government was behind the murder of two close friends appear to have motivated the Harvard-educated corporate lawyer, the investigation suggested.

“Why the video?” Castresana said. “We don’t have all the answers. But we have a theory.”

In the video, Rosenberg is seen looking into the camera and saying, “If you are watching this message, it is because I was assassinated by President Alvaro Colom.”

The 47-year-old attorney, who served as assistant dean at a private university, claimed Colom’s government was linked to a corruption scandal at a government bank and said any attack on him would be an attempt to cover that up. Colom has denied any involvement in the killing.

Rosenberg’s accusations were distributed to reporters on DVDs at his May 11 funeral and immediately set an already polarized country into a frenzy of protests, allegations of corruption and calls for Colom’s resignation.

Castresana said the commission’s theory is that Rosenberg was motivated by a sense of guilt and frustration over what he believed was the government’s involvement and failure to properly investigate the killing of his client and girlfriend, Marjorie Musa, along with her father, Khalil Musa.

Rosenberg had advised Khalil Musa to accept a seat on the board of directors of the private- and government-sponsored Rural Development Bank. In his video, Rosenberg said if he were slain, it would be to silence him for discovering the killings were linked to money laundering at the bank.

Castresana said that blaming Colom apparently was a way of shaking up the powers that be and “opening up a Pandora’s box that would result on change in the country.”

Rosenberg also appeared to be depressed about the recent death of this mother and losing custody of his children, the investigation said.

His posthumous accusations of corruption became a rallying cry for members of Guatemala’s dominant elite, many of whom are angry over Colom’s attempts to eliminate tax loopholes for corporations and criticize his inability to reduce high rates of violent crime.

Colom is overwhelmingly backed by Guatemala’s mostly Mayan Indian poor for his efforts to tax the rich and build schools and clinics for disadvantaged communities.

Colom had suggested that criminal or political interests were behind the video. In a public statement Tuesday, Colom thanked all those who supported him during “eight months of infamy.”

The commission’s investigation has led to 11 arrests with three of those people working with investigators as protected witnesses.

The commission said it was able to identify suspects in the killing using security camera footage from where Rosenberg was shot on his bicycle and by tracing cell phone calls.

The cousins implicated in the investigation, Francisco and Estuardo Valdes Paiz, are considered fugitives from justice. Investigators allege they contacted the head of security at their pharmaceutical company to help them find someone to carry out the killing for $40,000.

“The information that (witnesses) have given us coincides down to the millimeter with our investigations,” he said.