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Investigators say slain Guatemalan lawyer Rosenberg orchestrated his own death

By William Booth
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, January 13, 2010; A09

U.N. investigators reported Tuesday that a prominent lawyer who had accused Guatemala's president of killing him, in a videotape made before his assassination, had hired the hit men himself.

The finding appeared to avert a bizarre political crisis that had threatened the stability of the country.

In the hours after his funeral in May, allies of the lawyer, Rodrigo Rosenberg, released a videotape that featured him sitting in coat and tie at a desk and calmly announcing: "If you are hearing or seeing this message, it is because I was assassinated by President Álvaro Colom."

Rosenberg was fatally shot while riding his bicycle near his home in a relatively safe and well-to-do section of Guatemala City. After the videotape was released, the country descended into turmoil as conspiracy theories swirled and a constitutional crisis loomed.

According to a special international group commissioned by the government and led by U.N. investigator Carlos Castresana, Rosenberg contacted cousins of his first wife to help him find a hit man. Rosenberg told his relatives that he was looking for someone to "take care" of an extortionist, the investigators said, when he himself was really the target.

In an interview, Guatemala's left-leaning president described the accusations against him as "a disgrace for this country" that was exploited by his opponents, many of whom are part of the country's elite.

"Honestly, I never felt bad, I was always for my country and my people, and my conscience was totally clean," Colom said. "It was hard, but it is over now."

Castresana told reporters in Guatemala City that Rosenberg, a 47-year-old Harvard-educated lawyer, was distraught over the killings of his girlfriend, Marjorie Musa, along with her father, Khalil Musa, who was his client. The U.N. investigator said Rosenberg suspected that the Guatemalan government was behind their deaths.

At a news conference, Castresana said that before his death, Rosenberg bought two cellphones -- one to speak with his killers and the other to make threatening calls to his own personal phone.

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