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Guatemala: Rosenberg Video Causes Uncertainty and Speculation

Categories: Latin America, Guatemala, Law, Politics

It is the video that all of Guatemala is talking about. The 18-minute [1] clip [2] posted on YouTube depicts the murdered lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg [3] and was released under the instructions to do so only in the event of his own death. After his body was found in a Guatemala neighborhood, his family released the video, in which Rosenberg names Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom, the First Lady ,and two close associates as those personally responsible for the murder.

In the video, Rosenberg accuses them of corruption and money laundering through the use of a state-owned bank Banrural (Rural Bank). He also accused them of being responsible for the murder of his clients former bank board member Khalil Musa and his daughter. Rosenberg claimed that Musa had found out about the corruption and that was what the reason for their deaths.

Naturally, an event of this magnitude in Guatemala, would elicit a flood of responses from that country's blogosphere and twittosphere. One such blogger and twitterer, Jean Anleu Fernández tweeted the following recommendation [es] [4], “The first action people should take is to withdraw your money from Banrural, and bankrupt the bank of the corrupt.” That was enough for the country's Office of the Prosecutor to arrest and charge Anleu, also known as @jeanfer [5] on Twitter. He was charged with “intent to commit financial panic.”

Anleu's arrest comes as a surprise to many Guatemalan bloggers because of the non-political nature of his blogs. Many of his subjects are about his favorite books and about the field of information technology, in which he works. In addition, Anelu only had 212 followers at the time [6], according to Maestros del Web [es]. A judge sentenced him to house arrest and ordered him to pay a fine in the amount of $6,500 USD.

The arrest has angered many bloggers causing campaigns of solidarity [7], including the collection of donations to pay for the fine [es] [8]. Others don't buy the fact that such a tweet could produce the panic claimed by the government. Jorge Mota wonders why the authorities could move so quickly on a case like this, but the more serious accusation from the Rosenberg video has yet to receive the same treatment [es] [9]:

Sí, así de absurdo es este país, Te incriminan de asesinato en un vídeo y puedes negarlo todo, y claro la impunidad en el país te protege. Pero haces un comentario en Twitter y te arrestan. Por qué fue tan eficiente la policía para localizarlo, conseguir la orden, allanarlo y arrestarlo en este caso? por qué la ineficiencia reina y campa contra cada caso de violencia, asesinato y demás en nuestra patria. Pero claro, El gobierno quiere callar el movimiento online en contra suya.

Yes, the country is that absurd. One gets incriminated for murder by a video and one can deny everything, and of course the country's impunity protects. But one makes a comment on Twitter, and is arrested. Why was the police so efficient in located, obtaining the order, raiding and arresting in this case? Why does inefficiency rule during any case of violence, murder and everything else in our country. But of course, the government wants to silence the online movement against it.

Twitterer Jomap19 echoes the sentiment [es] [10]:

La cqaptura de @jeanfer me parece una descarada cortina de humo para desviar la atencion de las acusasiones al presidente Colon #escandalogt

The arrest of @jeanfer appears to be a shameless smokescreen to divert the attention from the accusations towards President Colon #escandlogt

The hashtag being used by Guatemalan twitterers, bloggers, and others angered by these recent events is #escandalogt [11] (Guatemala Scandal). Ethan Zuckerman of My Heart's in Accra analyzed the use of the hashtag [12] and found that “#escandalogt is about as frequent as several of the tags listed on Twitter’s “Trending Topics”, getting more use than #fixreplies, #GoogleFail and #theoffice, all currently featured on the right sidebar.”

As more and more buzz is created on the internet, many wonder whether the arrest of Anleu is a sign of things to come. Luis Figueroa of Carpe Diem [es] writes [13]:

Hoy que el Procurador Portillo Merlos amenazó a quienes difundan la información que destapó Rodrigo Rosenberg, me pregunto: La administración de Los Colom ¿irá a perseguir a la revista Time por el artículo titulado A Video from the Grave Sends Guatemala into Crisis?

Today the Prosecutor Portillo Merlos threatened those who spread the information that Rodrigo Rosenberg uncovered, and I ask: The Colom administration, will it chase Time magazine for the article titled A Video from the Grave Sends Guatemala into Crisis?

As a result of much of this uncertainty and frustration, protests are starting to emerge on the streets of Guatemala City. James Rodriguez of Mi Mundo has photos and describes the two competing groups protesting [14]:

As a result of the crisis, two very different protests were carried out in the central park of Guatemala City. The first gathering brought thousands of demonstrators who angrily demand justice for Rosenberg’s death in addition to a resolution for the out-of-control violence in which Guatemalan society lives today. This first group, composed primarily by residents from the wealthier sectors, also demands the immediate resignation of President Colom.

Simultaneously, dozens of buses brought hundreds of organized people to show their support for President Colom in front of the Presidential Palace. These governmental sympathizers come primarily from low-income shantytowns, known as asentamientos, within the outskirts of Guatemala City. During a live CNN interview on Tuesday the 12th, President Colom admitted his UNE party had strong presence and support in such areas. These demonstrators claim that Colom’s government is victim of a movement seeking political instability. Despite the tensions among the groups, no violent confrontations occurred.

As the events continue to develop surrounding the video, the protests and the speculated targeting of those spreading information about the case, it is certain that they will not stop from being discussed online.