The strange case of Rodrigo Rosenberg

The too strange for words scandal surrounding the death of Guatemalan lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg -- who apparently arranged his own assassination and blamed it on the Guatemalan government -- seemed to come to a close today with the sentencing of the eight hit-men who carried out the deed: 

Four of the accused men were sentenced to between 38 years and 48 years on homicide and other charges, and four other co-consipirators received eight-years sentences for "illegal association."

But sentences for two of the men were reduced to two years and to 12 years in return for the suspects' cooperation with prosecutors. Another suspect was released after turning state's evidence.

The eight were members or collaborators of a gang of hit men that planned and carried out the killing, allegedly for a payment that originated with Rosenberg himself.

Rosenberg's death erupted into street protests and a major political scandal after a YouTube video was circulated showing the antigovernment laweyer, "If you are watching this message, it is because I was assassinated by President Alvaro Colom."

Rosenberg reportedly believed that Colom's government was behind the murder of one of his clients and arranged to be fatally shot while riding his bicycle. The plan backfired when a subsequent U.N. investigation exonerated Colom. 

It's tempting to try to draw some larger lesson from this case about the unreliability of social media or commentators jumping to conclusions at the smallest sign of unrest, but it's probably too unusual for that. 



Love is in the Congress in Argentina

A guest Post from Passport's senior Buenos Aires correspondent: 

For a full day and night, at least, Argentina debated the meaning of love. A bill permitting gay marriage - including adoption rights for gay married couples - passed in the Argentine senate at 4 a.m. this morning, after a marathon 15-hour-session. While senators in the chamber waxed on about relationships, family, the future of the species and the bible, people outside did the same, on the streets and in their homes.

"They're all talking about love," a friend of mine said through her chattering teeth last night, as we stood outside of the Argentine congress waiting for the Senate's decision on gay marriage. She meant the straight musicians on stage, riffing about how they'd still be great fathers if they were gay. But, in the meantime, powerful men, of a certain age and from all over the country, were making declarations such as Senator Nito Artaza's:

"I've listened attentively to conceptions so beautiful and admirable on marriage that I want to get married again. ... But that happiness brought by marriage between a man and a woman will go on, even if we vote for this initiative today. Everybody will still be happy ... it turns out there are other people, other human beings in diversity, whose right we must recognize today. ... I don't see why we have to make such an effort - and I say this with all respect - to obstruct the possibility that others have the same right."

The bill, which effectively makes marriage gender blind, giving equal recognition and rights to same-sex and heterosexual couples, did not come to be quietly. The pitched battle included such highlights as the Catholic archbishop publicly declaring the legislation to be the work of Satan, international Opus Dei representatives organizing against it, thousands of Catholics and evangelicals demonstrating in Congress and posters around Buenos Aires reading "It's the biology, stupid."

Catholic universities gave students Tuesday off to march against same-sex marriage and it's rumored that schools demanded families attend that same anti-marriage rally. Some senators attempted to create a last-minute civil-union law, which had to be removed from consideration due to violations of discrimination laws. And many voiced worry about the plan of God and the need to procreate. Observers compared reactions to those preceding the divorce law's passage in the 80s or even women's suffrage in 1949.

The law squeaked through by a mere six votes, with some tactical abstentions and absences. Argentina is the tenth country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage, and the first in Latin America.

Despite the victory's narrow margins, it's worth noting the sea-change which already hit society; the move had a 70 percent approval rating.