Atlantic Books (2010), 416 pages
The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed Bishop Gerardi? outlines the murder of a Guatemalan bishop and the search for his killers. It is clear from the outset that, despite the bishop’s murder being disguised as a break-in, the most likely reason for his death is his involvement in the publication (two days before his death) of a report critical of human rights abuses by the previous military regime. The report Guatemala: Never Again detailed regime atrocities and enraged sections of the military who were still a powerful force in Guatemalan affairs. Goldman’s book is a detailed examination of Gerardi’s murder, an examination of the crime scene, the witnesses, motives for the murder, and the likeliest suspects.
Unsurprisingly for a country that spent so long under the rule of a right-wing military dictatorship Goldman unearths military collusion in Gerardi’s murder. There is also the finger of suspicion pointed at Bishop Gerardi’s fellow priest and housemate Fr. Mario Orantes. Fr. Orantes led a lifestyle unsuited to that of a priest, he had a gold Cartier watch, he had a collection of handmade designer shirts and other clothes imported from London, he owned a $2,500 dog, he also possessed a gun and ammunition. These were all presents from his wealthy family. It was also hinted that Fr. Orantes was not celibate and possibly was open to blackmail to enable the murder of his bishop.
Goldman’s book chronicles Guatemala’s bloody history, the malign influence of foreign powers, the vicious split between left and right, and brutal military dictatorship. Gerardi’s murder happened at a time when democracy was replacing dictatorship but the military had (and arguably still have) the ability to silence opponents through violence or the threat of violence. Thanks to the bravery of the investigators and the legal team prosecuting the case the perpetrators of Gerardi’s murder would eventually be brought to justice.
How Mexico City Saved Me From Grief – Francisco Goldman article for The Guardian about the death of his wife.