You couldn’t make it up – I – the case of Rodrigo Rosenberg

This is a slightly fuller text version of Box 9.2 (p. 173) in the book. In particular this website version provides more information about the sources that may be consulted for further information about the subject.

It was a murder that spawned a macabre YouTube sensation and threatened to topple Guatemala’s government. Hitmen shot dead Rodrigo Rosenberg, a lawyer, in Guatemala City soon after he recorded a sombre video blaming his imminent assassination on President Colom.

Rosenberg was thought to be in a suicidal state, following the assassination of his close friends Khalil Musa and his daughter Marjorie Musa, the recent death of his mother and separation from his wife and children. He had been investigating the deaths of the Musas and had been romantically involved with Marjorie Musa.

An investigation by the UN International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) involved 300 officials and analysed more than 100,000 telephone calls and many videos, CCTV recordings, photographs and documents. Rosenberg had contracted his cousins Francisco José Valdés Paíz and José Estuardo Valdés Paíz to hire a hitman to carry out the murder of a supposed extortionist who was blackmailing Rosenberg. The identity of the target was allegedly unknown to the Valdés Paíz brothers, but they are now seen as the masterminds of the murder and are currently avoiding arrest. The machinations involved in the scheme would be of great fascination to dramatists, conspiracy theorists and fantasists, but are far too complex to be detailed here.

Ultimately the hit was carried out by a group led by Willian Gilberto Santos Divas, a former member of the police. Rosenberg was shot three times in the head, once in the neck and once in the back. In September 2009, nine suspects, including members of the police and military, were arrested for the murder.

The CICIG investigation concluded that the lawyer, in a state of depression over personal problems and angry with the government, sacrificed his own life in an elaborate sting. Rosenberg made the video knowing that two days later assassins he had hired would ambush him near his home. He apparently hoped the video would render him a martyr.

The Head of CICIG, Carlos Castresana, said they had found no evidence to link the President to Rosenberg’s death.

CICIG (2010) ‘Caso Rosenberg: Resultados de la Investigación’, Guatemala City, United Nations CICIG, 12 January 2010.
Rory Carroll (2009) ‘Lawyer in YouTube murder plot video hired his own assassins – UN’, The Guardian, London, 14 January 2010.
Danilo Valladares (2009) ‘Guatemala: Police, Military arrested for lawyer’s murder’, IPS, 14 September 2009.
Julie Chappell (UK Ambassador to Guatemala) (2010) ‘The Rosenberg Assassination and Justice in Guatemala’, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 13 January 2010.
Moon Travel Guide (2010) ‘Rosenberg planned his own execution, UN commission says’, 14 January 2010: (accessed 24.01.10).
Gilberto López (2010) ‘La frase lapidaria, ……’, Semanario Universidad, (accessed 10.01.10).
Martin Barillas (2010) ‘Guatemala: murdered lawyer planned his own death’, Spero News, 12 January 2010, (accessed 24.01.10).
Central American Politics (2010) ‘Rosenberg orchestrated his own murder?’, 12 January 2010, (accessed 24.01.10).