George Clooney investigates Guatemala Bishop Juan Gerardi’s murder

It looks like George Clooney is making a film about the death of Guatemalan Bishop Juan Gerardi. Bishop Gerardi was murdered 20 years ago, two days after delivering the Catholic Church's damning report on the Guatemalan military's activities during the country's 36 year conflict. I remember seeing Gerardi' death on the front page of the paper while riding a bus out of the country. It was horrific.

The "official" version of Gerardi's murder is that he was killed by soldiers as punishment for delivering the human rights report. This version is most widely known through Francisco Goldman's The Art of Political Murder. As far as I can remember, Goldman's version of events is how I was introduced to Gerardi's murder. However, many of Goldman's details do not stand up to scrutiny. The Guatemalan Catholic Church and and national and international left support this version of history as well. 

David Stoll breaks down some of the inconsistencies in the official / Goldman version using the work of journalists Maite Rico of El País and Bertrand de la Grange of Le Monde. These two journalists have argued that the murderers were

  • a gang of colonial church art-looters, led by the bishop's daughter, who were set up for the crime by
  • a clandestine army network seeking to discredit President Alvaro Arzú, who had angered hard-line officers by signing a peace deal with the Guatemalan guerrillas. Of the three soldiers who went to prison, two were members of Arzú’s staff who served as bodyguards for Arzú’s son Diego, a friend of Father Orantes.

It is quite possible that the people who committed the murder were not the same people who tampered with the evidence. Julie López wrote a post for my blog several years (Do we really know who killed the Bishop (Gerardi)?) ago that summarized the arguments that she made in a book about Gerardi's murder. She tries to separate what we know from what we do not know. The evidence points in all sorts of directions. 

It might be true but I no longer believe the official version as told in Goldman's book and cemented in the courts. It is why in Guatemala, truth is stranger than fiction.