Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Few Guatemalans Blame Colom for Murder

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Very few people in Guatemala think Álvaro Colom is guilty of the assassination of lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg, according to a poll by CID-Gallup. Only eight per cent of respondents believe the president is responsible for Rosenberg’s murder.

Three-in-five respondents say they do not know who is behind the crime.

Guatemalan voters elected a new president in November 2007. Final results gave Colom of the left-leaning National Union of Hope (UNE) 52.82 per cent of the vote. His run-off contender, Otto Pérez Molina of the right-leaning Patriot Party (PP), finished second with 47.18 per cent of all cast ballots. Colom was sworn in as president in January 2008.

On May 10, Rosenberg—a prominent lawyer and businessman—was killed in Guatemala City. Days earlier, Rosenberg had videotaped himself accusing Colom and his wife, Sandra Torres, of plotting to assassinate him. The lawyer considered himself a target due to his involvement with two clients—Khalil Musa and daughter Marjorie Musa—who were killed on Apr. 14. Rosenberg claimed that the Guatemalan government ordered the assassinations to cover corrupt dealings in which Khalil Musa was involved.

Since the Rosenberg videotape surfaced, thousands of people have marched on the streets of Guatemala City either showing support for Colom or asking him to step down. The president ordered an investigation into Rosenberg’s death. Both the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) are studying the case.

On Jun. 10, Colom said that Rosenberg’s assassination has tarnished the image of Guatemala around the world, declaring that the negative impact of the case on his credibility is "very low" domestically, whereas "the real problem is abroad."

Polling Data

Who is guilty of the murder of lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg?

Organized crime 11%
The president 8%
Common criminals 5%
Groups opposed to the government 5%
Others 11%
Not sure 60%

Source: CID-Gallup
Methodology: Interviews with 1,213 Guatemalan adults, conducted from Jun. 5 to Jun. 15, 2009. Margin of error is 2.8 per cent.

International criminal courts: no precedent for individual reparations

No precedent exists for an international criminal or hybrid court to award individual reparations, although national truth-and-reconciliation commissions have urged individual governments to try.

The thousands who were raped and maimed in Sierra Leone's 11-year civil war, which ended in 2002, are now registering with the government's National Commission for Social Action to receive money as well as education and health-care benefits to compensate for their loss. In Guatemala, where 64,000 requests are pending from victims of the country's 36-year civil war, the government is responding with compensation payments ranging from $1,500 to $2,500.

For better or worse, victims of the Khmer Rouge now have expectations for the long-awaited tribunal and what it will award for reparations, says Ruben Carranza, a senior associate in International Center for Transitional Justice reparations unit in New York.

"There's still some hope the court will cast an approach that is feasible and, while not satisfying everyone, will provide the basic acknowledgement that all the victims need," Mr. Carranza says.

"It's not too late," he adds, "but they're running out of time."


Neighbors trade embargo on Honduras ends

The 48-hour trade embargo imposed by Honduras' three neighbors in response to a military coup came to an end on Thursday, with a cost to the nation worth 16 million U.S. dollars.

El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua had all halted trade with Honduras after Sunday's military coup against President Manuel Zelaya.

The four Central American nations usually work closely together, and are known as the CA-4.

Amilcar Bulnes, president of the Honduran National Business Council, (Cohep), told media Thursday that a Cohep committee had traveled to El Salvador on Wednesday, to "explain to them what is really going on in the country" and seek to preserve regional economic integration.

The Cohep has supported Roberto Micheletti, the acting president installed by the Congress after the coup.

Honduran soldiers stormed the presidential palace early Sunday morning and forced Zelaya to exile.

The United Nations, Organization of American States and many foreign government leaders condemned the military uprising and refused to recognize Micheletti's government.

"The closure ended at zero on Thursday, and even though there was willingness to extend the measure, there were no instructions to that effect," said David Cristiani, Guatemala's deputy economic minister.

The business and financial community in Guatemala opposed the closure of the nation's borders, and the Central America, Dominican Republic and Panama Private Enterprise Federation also issued a statement describing the move as a violation of CA-4 treaties.

Honduras is Guatemala's third largest export market, with an export value of 737 million U.S. dollars in 2008, or around 2 million dollars a day, Cristiani said, adding Guatemala also lost income from customs during the two days.

Source: Xinhua