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A Murder Foretold
March 28, 2011 6:27 PM   Subscribe

"My name is Rodrigo Rosenberg Marzano and, alas, if you are hearing or seeing this message it means that I’ve been murdered by President Álvaro Colom, with the help of Gustavo Alejos." Rosenberg went on, "The reason I'm dead, and you're therefore watching this message, is only and exclusively because during my final moments I was the lawyer to Mr. Khalil Musa and his daughter Marjorie Musa, who, in cowardly fashion, were assassinated by President Álvaro Colom, with the consent of his wife, Sandra de Colom, and with the help of . . . Gustavo Alejos."
posted by vidur (48 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously.
posted by shothotbot at 6:33 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


You were off by 2 years...double.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:38 PM on March 28, 2011


"It was this that roused me from my slumber..." to join Metafilter, finally. An astute and precisely-and-immaculately-written study on the human condition in, at least, Central America. A natural-born thriller: highly-recommended.
posted by perspectival at 6:41 PM on March 28, 2011


But nobody can tell it like David Grann tells a story (Lost City of Z, etc..)
posted by stbalbach at 6:41 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think this is a double at all - the article here has the whole story, which is very unlike the narrative that the earlier post assumed. And man, what an ending!
posted by ZaphodB at 6:48 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


hey hey!
posted by DU at 6:57 PM on March 28, 2011


hal_c_on, not a double at all.
posted by vidur at 6:58 PM on March 28, 2011


It's a single not a double.
posted by clavdivs at 7:00 PM on March 28, 2011


How can it be a double when the New Yorker article is dated April 2011?

It's telling what was uncovered afterwards, which is pretty incredible and turns the initial story inside out.
posted by philipy at 7:00 PM on March 28, 2011


Question: I'm only familiar with the broad details of this story. Should I start with the "previous" thread, or just read the latest article?
posted by mosk at 7:16 PM on March 28, 2011


Wow.
posted by warbaby at 7:17 PM on March 28, 2011


Start with the "previous" thread. More fun this way.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:18 PM on March 28, 2011


If I tried to pitch this story to a publisher as a political thriller it would be rejected as being far too fucking unbelievable. They would literally laugh my ass out of the building.

Truth, she is stranger and fiction, no?
posted by Avenger at 7:40 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Holy Shit, my life is boring.

but less so because of this read, thanks!
posted by localhuman at 7:57 PM on March 28, 2011


holy shit, when i got to the answer for whodunnit, i said 'holy shit' out loud. that is quite the story.
posted by Mach5 at 8:06 PM on March 28, 2011


That's great, thanks for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:51 PM on March 28, 2011


I'm staying the hell out of Guatemala.

What a story. And told with great skill and clarity.
posted by flippant at 8:52 PM on March 28, 2011


wait, I'm confused. I don't want to drop spoilers, but isn't the story on the ourobosian side, as I recall?
posted by mwhybark at 9:00 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jesus, what a story.

Between 2000 and 2009, the number of killings rose steadily, ultimately reaching sixty-four hundred. The murder rate was nearly four times higher than Mexico’s. In 2009, fewer civilians were reported killed in the war zone of Iraq than were shot, stabbed, or beaten to death in Guatemala.

----

From June 2010:

Four severed heads and two beheaded bodies have been found in the capital of Guatemala.

The bodies were left in the open around Guatemala City, including in front of Congress and at a shopping centre.


A really depressing story.
posted by rtha at 9:02 PM on March 28, 2011


"Hello"...! My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father prepare to die!

(sorry)
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 9:24 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


OMG.
posted by storybored at 9:35 PM on March 28, 2011


What a story!

If I tried to pitch this story to a publisher as a political thriller it would be rejected as being far too fucking unbelievable.

It's so not a political thriller. This is The Name of The Rose crossed with The Illuminatus Trilogy crossed with The Wire. The potential!
posted by carsonb at 9:41 PM on March 28, 2011


Ack, i couldn't read the whole thing. Both of my parents come from parts of Latin America where this sort of thing was part of everyday life at one point or another and this reads like the stories they told me about every honorable person they grew up with (and saw die).
posted by LMGM at 9:44 PM on March 28, 2011


LMGM, there's a twist that probably makes this pretty unlike the stories you know from your parents.
posted by verbyournouns at 9:47 PM on March 28, 2011


Not done reading yet, but...

----

A genteel-looking grandfather, with a silver mustache and birdlike eyes, he was known for making business deals, sometimes with the government, and he owned a clothing shop, in Guatemala City, that catered to a wealthy male clientele. But Mendizábal was no mere entrepreneur. It was whispered that, as in a John le Carré novel, the boutique also served as a meeting place for military-intelligence officers, coup plotters, and death-squad leaders.

Mendizábal was Guatemala’s most notorious spy.


----

Any tale that includes Garak is fine by me!
posted by m@f at 9:54 PM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Let me just say thank you to everyone for keeping their comments spoiler-free.
posted by vidur at 9:55 PM on March 28, 2011


Gripping. And really, really sad.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:22 PM on March 28, 2011


Holy crap, what an insane story!

The world has some pretty fucked-up nations.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:03 PM on March 28, 2011


Great post, what a wild story. Spoiler: Gur pnyyf ner pbzvat sebz vafvqr gur ubhfr!
posted by octothorpe at 11:53 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was a fantastic read.
posted by klangklangston at 1:01 AM on March 29, 2011


Incredible story. Thanks for posting it.
posted by Wolof at 1:09 AM on March 29, 2011


I look forward to the mini-series.
posted by Gyan at 1:19 AM on March 29, 2011


Wow, that really sucked me in. I wouldn't be so sad now if it weren't true.
posted by Tacodog at 2:01 AM on March 29, 2011


Tangential, vaguely interesting side note:

First Lady Sandra Torres is divorcing President Álvaro Colom so that she can run in the upcoming Presidential election, as current Guatemalan law prohibits close relatives of the current President from running.
posted by WalterMitty at 2:05 AM on March 29, 2011


For the shorter version with spoilers, see wikipedia.

<tinfoil>I guess this is an obvious question, but given the lawlessness of Guatemala that is the background for the whole thing, is there absolutely no chance that the evidence finally presented in the article is also phony and the investigation compromised? </tinfoil>
posted by memebake at 5:37 AM on March 29, 2011


For the shorter version with spoilers, see wikipedia.

Shorter and incredibly dull.

I guess this is an obvious question, but given the lawlessness of Guatemala that is the background for the whole thing, is there absolutely no chance that the evidence finally presented in the article is also phony and the investigation compromised?

I also wondered this. I don't think the tinfoil tags are really necessary, considering all the information in the article.

At the beginning I had wondered with Rosenberg himself had had Musa and his wife killed. I also thought Marjorie's sister had been involved in Rosenberg's death, since she was apparently the only person who knew that Rosenberg was going out on a bike ride. Then I started to think his fishy Mendizábal "friend" was responsible for the murder of Musa (and later Rosenberg), and had been trying to convince Rosenberg it was the president. Then I started to wonder whether there wasn't a kernel of truth to Mendizábal's claim that Rosenberg had gone out thinking he was going to purchase information that proved the president's involvement, only to be murdered by someone hired by Mendizábal.

It's just endless spaghetti. How can you trust any of the information? Even if you trust one source, how can you know whether you can trust their source??
posted by molecicco at 6:10 AM on March 29, 2011


---------------- SPOILERS ABOVE^^^^^^^^^^^^^--------------


(sorry)
posted by molecicco at 6:11 AM on March 29, 2011


I was in Guatemala around the time that Castresana left the country, and my impression was that a lot of people there mistrusted him and CICIG pretty intensely. For some people it was a specific thing against Castresana, or a friend-of-my-foe thing — they thought President Colom was a crook, so when Castresana's report exonerated him, they decided Castresana must be a crook too. But for many people it was just across-the-board mistrust of authority: "Everyone's crooked. The world is a crooked place, and nobody who's honest could ever have any sort of influence. Why should Castresana be any different?"

Anyway, there was definitely a lot of FUD flying around — "Castresana's leaving because he told the truth and is afraid of being killed"; "Castresana's leaving because he's a criminal and he was about to be exposed"; "Castresana's leaving because he doesn't give a shit about the truth, and this whole thing is a hoax to get attention back in Europe." Etcetera.

So, yeah, for me too it was weird to read this article where his report is taken at face value. The Guatemalan media certainly didn't take it that way, and neither did public opinion.

That said, my impression is that if anyone in this story is trustworthy, Castresana is — if only because he would be much harder to bribe or coerce than the other main players. He doesn't seem to have any interest in building up local power in Guatemala, and now that he's back in Spain (and counting his wealth in Euros, and protected by a reasonably-honest police force), he's a lot more expensive to keep paid-off or afraid for his life. Just because I'm inclined to trust him, that doesn't mean I'm 100% sold on his conclusions. It's possible he was fed bad evidence, it's possible that he's gone off his rocker, and it's possible that he made an honest mistake. But if I had to put money on anyone's account, I'd bet on his, because it seems less likely to be a full-on deliberate lie than any of the other stories that are circulating.

SPOILERS ABOVE

Uh, guys? This is international politics, not Harry Potter. Anyone who "doesn't want to know how it ends" is missing the point.

posted by nebulawindphone at 7:19 AM on March 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Of course, as for the spoilers... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2qoIELB3A8
posted by Laotic at 7:40 AM on March 29, 2011


Wow.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 7:50 AM on March 29, 2011


yeah, i guess the spoiler warning was unnecessary. no need to be snippy though - the story really is a much better read when you don't know what conclusions were made in the end, and given all the brouhaha in meta about people not giving spoiler warnings i thought i would throw that in there.
posted by molecicco at 8:04 AM on March 29, 2011


"Botar un pato grande,” the voice said. “Knock over a big stick.”

That's either a typo or mistranslated, because "Botar un pato grande" means "Knock over a big duck."
posted by joedan at 10:21 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, hell, I'm sorry molecicco. I didn't mean to single you out — I just got careless and grabbed the nearest bit of "spoiler alert" talk to quote when I got to the end of the thread.

What I should have said instead: Hey, y'all upthread: enjoy the story all you want, but don't tell us we have to keep the discussion 'spoiler free.' You wouldn't put a note saying "No discussing the issues! Don't give away the ending!" on a piece about US politics — even a really grippingly-narrated and suspenseful one. Please remember that there are real issues in this article too that are just as worthy of discussion.

Meanwhile, molecicco was discussing the issues, and just wanted to cover his ass against the "no spoilers" folks, so it was really shitty of me to come across like I was calling him out in particular. Sorry.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:54 AM on March 29, 2011


That's either a typo or mistranslated, because "Botar un pato grande" means "Knock over a big duck."

Yeah, I think it musta been "palo."

posted by nebulawindphone at 11:54 AM on March 29, 2011


no offense taken nebulawindphone! but after your post i did realize the capital letters was kind of overdoing it.

but getting back to the issue, i completely agree - castresana is the one person who i would presume has no ulterior motives, and is not being paid by anyone. but i would still be a bit concerned that he wouldn't be able to sort out the different levels of disinformation.

and the more i the whole situation over, the crazier it all seems. i mean, even if you are one of the very-corrupt and are contributing to the disinformation, you've gotta always be unsure about what is and is not true. it's seems like a world where truth is whatever you accept to be the truth. you might even give up on the idea of being able to know with any reasonable degree who did what and why, even among your own colleagues. how exhausting.
posted by molecicco at 2:47 PM on March 29, 2011


The takeaway for me was to be a bit more skeptical of proof-by-believable-story convictions I have.
posted by vidur at 8:23 PM on March 29, 2011


Such a great article. Thanks for the post.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:00 PM on April 1, 2011


"No journalist working today spins a yarn quite like The New Yorker's David Grann."
posted by vidur at 9:27 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


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