Friday, February 15, 2013

Prominent Guatemalan Lawyer Assassinated

On Thursday evening, a prominent Guatemalan lawyer was assassinated on Avenida de la Reforma in Zone 9 of the capital shortly after leaving her office. Lea Marie de Leon was killed by two men riding on a motorcylce. Her husband is a Prensa Libre editor.

Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla speculated that a drug cartel was responsible for her death. However, there are other indications that she might have been killed because of internal office politics. De Leon recently received threats from a prosecutor which she had passed along to authorities. The threat was possibly related to the Valat case. They are not mutually exclusive - the motive could be related to both theories.

De Leon defended Maria del Rosario Melgar, accused of involvement in Victor Rivera's murder. Rivera was an adviser to the Interior Ministry who died in 2008. She also defended two men involved in the 2009 murder/suicide of Rodrigo Rosenberg. She was also involved in a number of other cases as prosecutor or defender.

There's a good chance that authorities will solve this case as well. They've been pretty good at solving high-profile cases and here they have ballistics, witnesses, and cameras.

However, at least based upon what Prensa Libre reported, it's tough to understand what Bonilla is thinking. In response to the killing, he said that the government is going to crack down on motorcycle violations since the assassins rode on motorcycles. They did this earlier in week anyway from what I was watching on T.V.

What he should have said was that attacks upon the criminal justice system will not be tolerated. De Leon was a defense attorney killed. In December, a prosecutor in Huehuetenango was killed. Several prison guards and police officers have also recently been murdered.

Bonilla should have said that they will prosecute those who threaten and kill employees of the justice system to the fullest extent of the law.

And that while they cannot restrict Guatemalans' right to free speech, statements that allege that the Attorney General's office is controlled by former guerrillas pursuing political witch hunts are counterproductive to establishing a true rule of law in Guatemala. In today's Guatemala, statements such as these endanger prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges, and human rights activists.

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