Guatemala president seeks support at home, abroad
GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemala’s government reached out for international support Wednesday in a bid to preserve the country’s stability, amid growing calls for President Alvaro Colom’s resignation after being accused of ordered the killing of a lawyer.
Colom continued to vehemently deny the videotaped accusations by Rodrigo Rosenberg that were broadcast posthumously after the attorney was shot to death Sunday.
About 1,000 protesters gathered outside the National Palace to call for Colom’s resignation, forcing the president to cancel scheduled activities including the reception of ambassador credentials. Meanwhile, a similar number of supporters marched outside the presidential residence.
“This government is not alone, this government stands by its people and we are going to defend the rule of law and democracy until the end,” said Colom, a center-left politician who took office in January, in a nationally televised address.
In Washington, Guatemalan Foreign Minister Haroldo Rodas asked for support from the members of the Organization of American States.
Rodas said Guatemala needs the backing of the nations in the Americas to “preserve the stability and social peace.” He placed blame on “criminal organizations that are capable of plotting seditious plans and that are looking to impede Colom from governing.”
Leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez expressed support for Colom, alluding to a right-wing conspiracy without providing details.
Colom has called for the FBI and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala to investigate the killing. The U.N. panel was set up in 2007 to clean up corruption in Guatemala.
The director of the U.N. commission, Spaniard Carlos Castresana, said Wednesday that Colom should avoid interfering with the investigations, but stressed that did not imply he should step aside temporarily from the presidency. Opposition lawmakers have called for the president to step aside while the killing is investigated.
U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Stephen McFarland said an FBI agent arrived Wednesday in Guatemala to coordinate with the U.N. commission and local prosecutors.
Rosenberg appeared in a recording distributed at his own funeral, blaming his death on the president and his Cabinet chief, Gustavo Alejos. Alejos published a full page announcement Wednesday in a local newspaper, proclaiming his innocence.
In the video, Rosenberg said officials might want to kill him because he represented businessman Khalil Musa, who was slain in March along with his daughter. The lawyer said Musa, who had been named to the board of the Guatemala’s Rural Development Bank, was killed for refusing to get involved in purported illicit transactions at the bank.
The video was shot in the office of journalist Mario David Garcia, who says he tried to persuade Rosenberg to denounce what he knew on the air but ran out of time.
Colom’s 2007 election victory gave Guatemala its first leftist leader since Jacobo Arbenz was thrown out of office in 1954 by a CIA-orchestrated coup.