Thorough, engrossing summary and analysis of Guatemalan Bishop Juan Gerardi’s death in 1998.
In the forefront of the civil-rights movement in Guatemala, 66-year-old Gerardi had been celebrating the release of a four-volume, 1,400-page account of government-sponsored murder and other atrocities over a period of four decades. Later that same week, he lay dead in the garage of the parish house, his head bashed and bloodied. Better known as a novelist, Goldman (The Divine Husband, 2004, etc.) is also a long-time journalist; he covered the bishop’s death for the New Yorker, never imagining at the time that he would be devoting much of the next eight years to the case. And what a case, with a cast of heavies and heroes worthy of the richest novel or film: archetypal fat-cat, blood-soaked military officers; devoted, underpaid public servants; frightened witnesses begging for protection; risk-taking journalists; and cold assassins (both named and unknown) who hurled the brains of their victims into the faces of onlookers and dismembered the brother of one of the prosecutors. A homeless man who turned out to be a former soldier trained in intelligence served as a key witness for the prosecution. A priest was also involved—perhaps as part of a ring of thieves, perhaps as host of a homosexual pleasure dome—and even this priest’s dog became a major player. Goldman presents unscrupulous lackeys in the government and in the press who endeavored to discredit the truth-tellers and whistle-blowers. Readers will find themselves as overwhelmed as the author was by complexity and confusion of acronyms, agencies and multiple levels in the justice system. Ultimately, some heads rolled—but were they the right heads? The only ones?
First-rate research and reporting on the darkness of hearts.