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Guatemalan president gets U.S. support as murder scandal rolls on
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10:50, May 19, 2009

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A senior U.S. official visited Guatemala on Monday to show support for President Alvaro Colom, who has been facing public protest due to alleged involvement in a lawyer's murder, news reports said.

Colom restated his innocence of all charges at a meeting with U.S. Undersecretary of State for Latin America David Robinson, a Guatemala government spokesman told reporters Monday.

Colom has already received support from the Organization of American States following the accusation, made by the slain lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg in a posthumous video, that the president had ordered the murder.

In Guatemala, however, the scandal has been growing and exposed divisions between the urban rich and the rural and working class voters who voted for Colom.

Guatemala's legislature on Monday received a petition signed by over 35,000 citizens seeking to lift the president's immunity, the first step in a possible prosecution.

Roberto Alejos, head of Guatemala's legislature, promised that he would call the party leaders in the parliament to make the petition known to them "the same day" and that it would then go onto a plenary session of the legislature.

According to the constitution, it is the Supreme Court that can demand stripping a president of immunity once sufficient evidence is brought in, Alejos told media, adding that this will then go to the legislature for a so-called "political judgment."

The major evidence implicating Colon is a video in which Rosenberg, who was gunned down on May 10 while riding his bike, claimed he would soon be murdered because he helped clients who had refused to cooperate in the government corruption and money-laundering scheme at development bank Banrural.

Colom has ordered the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, a UN panel set up in 2007 to clean up corruption, to investigate the matter.

On Sunday, the center of Guatemala City was blockaded by rival demonstrations with middle- and upper-class protestors dressed in white demanding Colom leave and working class and rural Guatemalans demonstrating to support the president.


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