Character of the year 2021 | Rosa Franco: “I’m trying to start over with the ones I have left”

With an open wound in her heart since December 16, 2001, Rosa Franco is now 60 years old and has the desire to resume her life, continue studying and traveling.

Her desire was to be a lawyer, like her father who was the presiding magistrate of the Zacapa Appeals Chamber, and to start a family. Currently he did both, without knowing that he would go through a life of pain and mourning along the way.

Rosa Elvira Franco Sandoval was born on May 29, 1961 in Zacapa and the last two decades of her life were spent fighting for justice for the murder of her daughter María Isabel Veliz Franco.

He achieved it on March 1, 2021.

Shedding tears of anger and sadness, knocking on doors and writing letters, she drew the attention of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which received her case and sentenced the State of Guatemala for its indolence and ineffectiveness in the search for María Isabel when she disappeared and at fault investigation of his murder that caused a late justice, a justice that came 19 years and 3 months later.

The sentence is not yet final, but he acknowledges that his daughter’s case had to exist for a specific alert to be created in the country for the disappearance of women, it is the Isabel Claudina Alert.

How do you receive the recognition for Character of the Year 2021?

It has been a pleasant surprise, I did not expect it, I have followed Prensa Libre since I am right and that they give me this recognition is quite significant for me as a mother, a woman, as a human being and as a Guatemalan who has fought for justice in a country very nice but it has very bad people. For me it is a great satisfaction and at the same time it is a crossroads of emotions because I also want my daughter to be present so that she can see everything that has been achieved despite 20 years of much effort and pain. I think that things are already planned by God, who allowed my daughter to suffer and as if I suffered so that all victims of violence in Guatemala and relatives of women who are disappearing have that hope, that light and those tools that There are now in Guatemala tools that I did not have, nor did María Isabel have, of seeking and not finding help, rather, obstacles and stones. They say 20 years are easy, but they are days that have been an effort not to throw in the towel, to move on, to remind myself that I have two other children and that I am here too. It is very hard to say in a few words how much I have suffered, something that other parents are experiencing now and are doing what I did for so long, alone and without resources.

It is difficult to ask how she has managed the pain during this time, but you have tried to do it with her in mind at every step or moment of your life.

As a Julio Iglesias song says, I stopped living, I forgot to live, but I couldn’t sit idly by. It is not easy to handle this situation, the pain is tremendous. It took me a lot to get it out of my heart and it is something that is still in there, it has not come out. But I’ve only done it with God’s help. Look, the State is pending a public apology for how it has handled my daughter’s case, that is not going to give her life back, even so, it has not. I have cried as he has no idea, but I think that same pain is what has strengthened me to this day, it is what has prompted me to continue, not to throw in the towel.

How do you want people to remember and understand the case of María Isabel and the struggle that it has meant during these two decades?

There is a verse that Don Jorge Velásquez (father of Claudina Velásquez, murdered in 2005) knows very well which is a poetry to the girl from Guatemala, something like that I want you to remember María Isabel, as the girl who made the way so that she had access to justice in Guatemala for other girls, other young women. But it hurts a lot, it hurts me that it was my daughter, because my girl was 15 years old, she was in her teens. All girls who have been murdered, of any age, all deserve to be dignified.

Who have accompanied you throughout this journey and who have been elementary for you?

In Guatemala there is Norma Cruz, Hilda Morales Trujillo, Giovanna Lemus, Fabiola Ortiz, Sonia Acabal, Claudia Paz, Thelma Aldana and the current attorney general. In addition to the Public Ministry prosecutor and his work team that handled the case of María Isabel, the current director of Inacif. Officials are few, but these people mean a lot to me because they opened the door and helped me. The first one I met was Norma and to this day we continue to be friends, receiving support, a word, advice and consolation. Amnesty International was very supportive of me, together with the International Commission on Human Rights and the International Court. To this day I am friends with many of them. I have a lot of people on my mind like Adriana Quiñónez from Onu Mujeres or Andres Kompass as well. God put such good people on my path that how can I not thank everyone, it is such a large list of such beautiful people.

What is it like to take back a life after having given everything to get justice?

I think I’m still on those. I will close that door until the sentence is final, otherwise I will not be calm. I’m trying to start over with the ones I have left, with my children, grandchildren, daughters-in-law, and friends. Despite the years, I want to continue studying, go abroad to study something else and if I can help more women, that is my wish, so that they can achieve justice just as I did. I can say that some justice works, although it should not be like that after 20 years, but I know that justice in Guatemala can still change and when I talk to María Isabel, because sometimes I talk to her, I tell her if you knew how everything has changed here for you. I know I have to start over, even if I’m old, I don’t know what life has in store for me. To this day, I feel that my heart was washed, there were things that I stopped living, walking, I stopped having fun at Christmas, although I did not neglect my children, I know that they resented that I stopped being the mother that I was , I used to smile a lot and I’m not like that anymore. I’m sorry it changed, but they made me change. I know that she would tell me to fall in love again, but I stopped living all that. I feel like they turned my head, I didn’t remember who I was and I stopped experiencing many beautiful things because of that. I don’t know if that sadness is going to leave me one day, but that I’m better, I’m better. I know that I will see her again one day, I hold on to that, but I really miss it.

When we did the report I remember that he said that when the case and life allowed it, he wanted to travel and see more places

I would very much like to know Quetzaltenango, what a shame that I have never been but they tell me that it is beautiful. I am from Zacapa and I want to know more places, not only Guatemala, I want to know other cultures that I only know in my imagination. I have been able to travel to Washington, Argentina Los Angeles, but for the case of my daughter. I want to go for a walk, to rest, to study, although the years are heavy, I know there is no age for that.

In recent years, a movement of young women has been formed who have organized, without the banner of any specific organization, to seek justice for missing, murdered or abused women. What to say to all of them?

I have seen the participation of many organizations. I am very happy that they are organizing themselves, especially in the departments and municipalities where there is such a need for organization. It is necessary to see them strengthened, for the aggressor to see that they are not alone, that they see that there are women who are organizing to defend themselves. It is logical that, out of fear, many do not want to report, but they need to speak, they too can, they are valuable, they should allow themselves to be helped. Another thing is also that you do not need to be a victim, what you need is to have empathy

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