Juan Gerardi, an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Guatemala, was bludgeoned to death with a paving slab in his garage on the night of 26 April 1998. The parish house of the church of San Sebastián is next to a park in the centre of Guatemala City, a few blocks from the National Palace and the headquarters of the Presidential Military Staff (EMP). At around ten o'clock on that Sunday evening, one of the homeless men who slept in the park, Rubén Chanax, saw a bare-chested man emerge from the garage and run off towards Seventh Avenue. Shortly after midnight, Father Mario Orantes, the 34-year-old assistant priest of San Sebastián who lived in the parish house with Bishop Gerardi, rang the chancellor of the curia with the news that he'd found the bishop's corpse. He called several other people too, including eventually the fire brigade (who do the work of ambulance crews in Guatemala) and the police. The news spread quickly. Through the early hours of the morning, a substantial crowd gathered: police, firefighters, churchmen, friends of the bishop, human rights activists, UN officials, rough sleepers, the attorney general, and a mysterious short man with a moustache who was taking photographs.
LRB 23 October 2008 | PDF Download