GUATEMALA CITY (HPD) — Family and friends watched over and buried the remains of former President Álvaro Colom Caballeros on Tuesday, who died suffering from health problems. Colom Caballeros, who ruled the country between 2008 and 2012, encouraged support for the working classes and was investigated for embezzlement in the implementation of the transportation system during his government.
Colom Caballeros was veiled in the Guatemalan capital without state honors. According to the government, there was an offer to organize a state funeral, but the family declined. At noon he was buried in a local cemetery.
The Guatemalan government declared three days of mourning for the death of the former president. “The Guatemalan government will fully respect the decision of the relatives of former President Colom Caballeros in the sense of carrying out the funeral services in private within the family,” they said in a statement.
The 71-year-old former president was an engineer and businessman. He won the presidency in 2007 for the National Unity of Hope (UNE) party, a party then identified with social democracy.
Óscar Argueta, former UNE deputy and current independent deputy, said that Colom Caballeros was a man of democratic ideas: “An extraordinary human being, a gentleman in his way of conducting himself, tolerant and with democratic positions.”
During the government of Colom Caballeros, free education was ensured, which was, along with health and safety for the most needy, one of the main pillars of his administration. During his public appearances, he implemented that a representative song of the Mayans called Rey Quiché be heard.
During his government, in coordination with the Public Ministry, specialized investigation methods against organized crime were created, such as wiretapping, which today are a fundamental basis for the investigation of organized crime.
One of the most important crises that the Colom Caballeros government experienced was the death of lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg, who recorded himself on video announcing his death and blaming the Colom government. Rosenberg was killed while riding a bicycle in 2009.
The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a UN commission that disrupted organized crime networks and clandestine security apparatuses embedded in the Guatemalan state for 12 years, to whom Colom had given his support, investigated the case and determined that Rosenberg had planned his own murder along with relatives.
Colom Caballeros managed to end his government and was replaced by General Otto Pérez Molina.
In 2018, the CICIG investigated Colom Caballeros along with 10 members of his government for involvement in fraud and embezzlement of a public transportation project known as Transmetro.
For the case, which has not yet come to trial, Colom Caballeros was arrested and spent several months in prison until he received the alternative measure of house arrest.
In 2021, the United States government sanctioned him, withdrawing his entry visa to his country and placing him on a list of people who undermine democracy and obstruct the fight against corruption. Along with him, Gustavo Alejos, his former private secretary, who is accused in various cases of corruption and manipulation of judges’ elections in search of impunity, is also indicated. Alejos is imprisoned.
Colom Caballeros always denied the charges.
The former president was married to Sandra Torres, a politician who has been accused of corruption and who will seek the presidency of the Central American country on June 25 with the same party that led Colom Caballeros to the Presidency.
Torres divorced Colom Caballeros amid public criticism of the separation. She was singled out for doing so to be able to participate in politics, since Guatemalan law did not allow her to run in the presidential election because she was the president’s wife at the time.