Review of The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?

Citation metadata

Author: Peter Canby
Editor: Jeffrey W. Hunter
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Document Type: Book review; Critical essay
Length: 2,319 words

Document controls

Main content

Article Preview :

[(review date 1 October 2007) In the review below, Canby critiques The Art of Political Murder, recalling the circumstances surrounding the crime and praising Goldman's account of the assassination and its aftermath as a "gripping" tour de force.]

The recent history of Guatemala is in many ways the tale of a country being gradually overwhelmed by crime, but in February Guatemala was rocked by a crime sensational even by its standards. Three prominent Salvadoran legislators--including Eduardo D'Aubuisson, son of the infamous rightist Roberto D'Aubuisson--were on their way to Guatemala City for a meeting of the Central American Parliament, a legislative body created in 1986 to try to heal the rifts that run through this fractious region. Not far from Guatemala City, the luxury SUV carrying the legislators was ambushed and diverted to a rural farm, where the three Salvadorans--along with their chauffeur--were riddled with bullets and then torched inside their vehicle.

A transponder soon revealed the kidnappers to be members of the Guatemalan National Police, including the head of its organized crime division. The accused cops were locked up in El Boquerón, a maximum-security prison forty miles outside Guatemala City.

A few days later, all visitors to the prison were asked to leave, and in full view of a public already riveted by the initial crime, a team of assassins passed unimpeded through a series of locked gates, shot the police in their cells, slit their throats and promptly disappeared. According to the Los Angeles Times, a group of FBI investigators sent to help Guatemala with the subsequent investigation were "appalled" by the conduct of their Guatemalan counterparts and found the crime scenes compromised and obvious leads not followed up. A Central American intelligence official told the L.A Times's Héctor Tobar that Guatemalan investigators "simply and intentionally refused to pass information to the FBI."

This double crime is unlikely ever to be solved, and to many observers it offers further proof of the degree to which organized crime has penetrated, perhaps even come to dominate, the structures of the Guatemalan state. Somewhere between 60 and 90 percent of the cocaine destined for the United States is estimated to pass through Guatemala, and narco-traffickers reportedly make regular payments of up to $5,000 a month to well-connected law enforcement officials.

"It's not that organized crime has penetrated the police force or the Interior Ministry," Luis Ramirez, an analyst at the Guatemalan Institute of Comparative Studies of Penal Science, told Nancy San Martin of the Miami Herald. "Organized crime is directing the police, the ministry, and the military."

Guatemala is not the world's only crime-dominated state, but what distinguishes its predicament is how the crime wave came about. For the country's lawlessness is, in many ways, the logical outcome of the peace accords that ended its brutal, long-running internal war. That war came to a close in 1996, when the United Nations brokered an ambitious peace treaty between the state's armed forces--sustained by overt and covert support from the United States--and...

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100103031