I WILL BE MURDERED B
A fascinating story pulled from the headlines, where in May 2009, Guatemalan lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg Marzano was shot and killed near his home. What followed was the publication of a YouTube video where Rosenberg stares straight into the camera and states “Sadly, ladies and gentlemen, if you are watching this video, it’s because I’ve been murdered by President Álavaro Colom.” Asesinato Rodrigo Rosenberg 1 (English Subs) YouTube (8:50). “Guatemalans, now is the time,” he says from the grave, spurring massive demonstrations and protests calling for the resignation of the president. As the nation was already mired in violence and corruption, this explanation seemed all too plausible, creating a public outcry and a yearlong investigation into the allegations, headed by Carlos Castresana, the Spanish prosecutor who was appointed head of the investigation into Rosenberg’s death. Castresana was chosen due to his anti-corruption credentials, as he was the head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CIGIC), an organization launched by the United Nations to combat corruption in Guatemala. He, perhaps, offers the most concisive explanation in the film, but he is joined by others, including friends, Rosenberg’s son, and other family members. While the talking heads approach grows overly repetitive, where the sound of voices literally drone on and on, and stylistically the film is not unique and can actually be rather bland, but the eventual impact of the film’s exposé couldn’t be more intriguing, as the film unravels slowly, offering little pieces at a time, building a case scenario that includes all the possible suspects, where shootings, kidnappings, and murders were all too common, remnants from the lengthy Guatemalan Civil War that ran from 1960 to 1996.
Perhaps what stands out the most was Rosenberg’s angry indignation at the lawlessness and despair that prevailed in Guatemalan society, where killers and common criminals were allowed to operate with impunity, where an estimated 98% of the murders were never solved, so he felt an obligation to do something about it. In 2007, a joint study by the World Bank and the United Nations ranked Guatemala as the third most murderous country in the world, nearly four times higher than Mexico, even outnumbering the number of civilians killed in the Iraq war. Harvard educated, Rosenberg was born into privilege, living in an upscale community in Guatemala City reserved for diplomats and the heirs to 19th-century fortunes, but he was estranged from his family where his children were living with his divorced ex-wife in Mexico. Rosenberg’s claims on the infamous tape blame the President, where an event triggered Rosenberg’s action to record his tape, as a few weeks earlier, a pair of assassins on a motorcycle gunned down one of Rosenberg’s clients in broad daylight, killing 74-year-old industrialist Khalil Musa and his daughter Marjorie, who was driving her father home from his office. Both were killed instantly, generating few headlines, but the experience was especially shattering to Rosenberg, as he was having an affair with Marjorie, though she was married at the time. E-mails and text messages between them were uncovered by the UN investigation, but Rosenberg feared investigating the case on his own would lead to his death, becoming obsessed with solving their murders, linking them to what he believed was a corruption scam reaching to the highest level of government, to the office of President Colom and his wife Sandra, who often appeared on TV handing out food to the poor, where Rosenberg believed millions were being skimmed off the top by corrupt officials.
According to Castresana at his press conference, “Rosenberg felt guilty about the assassination of [Marjorie] Musa, and he began a desperate search all over to find Musa’s killers…but he found no proof.” The film lets his friends and family do much of the talking, expressing their outrage, while also providing the testimony of a series of witnesses who were contacted by Rosenberg in secret meetings, each of whom played only a small part, unaware of how the others were connected. They all felt they were helping a man utterly devastated by his own personal grief, and Castresana was as astonished as anyone, but after an elaborate investigation of surveillance footage and wiretaps, Rosenberg was killed by assassins while he was out riding his bike, where more security cameras exist in that neighborhood than any other due to the rich residents, so cameras quickly led to the capture of the assassins, where the event was recorded from several angles, jailing the men seen tailing Rosenberg in a car. After months in jail, they began to talk, helping Castresana unravel the mysteries of his investigation. The film plays out like an elaborate police procedural with all the missing pieces of the puzzle pieced together, where the conclusions are as confounding as the allegations, as it appears Rosenberg fabricated evidence to carry out his own murder, then tried to pin the blame on the President. While the investigation did lead to arrests, they’re not who the public originally felt was at fault, as it includes many of Rosenberg’s own associates who were betrayed by their friend, while the accused President held his ground and survived the storms of accusations, actually emerging as a leader who didn’t cave to populist fervor. The revelations of the investigation ultimately exposed and helped clean up a corrupt government. According to Simon Granovsky-Larsen, an author who is a leading expert on political violence in Guatemala, “The crimes that happen here are unthinkable in other parts of the world and rival any political thriller. In the first months, or even years, after a political crime like Rosenberg’s, it is difficult to know what is a crazy conspiracy theory—and then one of those crazy conspiracy theories turns out to be true. In other parts of the world, this could only be fiction.”