View Full Version : Former Guatemalan Dictator Rios Montt gets 80 years

11 May 13,, 15:07
Every once in a while the good guys win one! :Dancing-Banana:

Efrain Rios Montt wasn't one of the best known dictators of the C20th and he didn't rack up the big body doubts others did, but in little over a year in power he did his best to earn a spot among the most brutal. Estimates of those killed run into the tens of thousands and ultimately hundreds of thousands were displaced.

As an evangelical Christian and an avowed anti-communist he was very much the golden haired boy of not only the Reagan Administration, but of prominent members of the religious right such as Pat Robertson, Gerry Falwell & others. They helped to arm & fund him, supported him publically & lied for him. Sadly none of them will ever stand trial.

Decisions such as this can never undo what has been done, a little bit of justice once in a while makes the world just that bit better a place to live in. I hope that those Guatemalens worst affected by this man's evil will find some small solace in this.

A court in Guatemala has found former military leader Efrain Rios Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity.

A three-judge tribunal sentenced the 86-year-old to 80 years in prison.

Rios Montt was convicted of ordering the deaths of 1,771 people of the Ixil Maya ethnic group during his time in office in 1982 and 1983.

Survivors described horrific abuses committed by the army against those suspected of aiding left-wing rebels.

Will Grant

BBC Central America correspondent


When the Guatemalan Peace Accords were signed in 1996 after a civil war in which 200,000 people were killed, very few ever thought this moment would be reached.

In blisteringly critical language, Judge Jazmin Barrios said that as de facto president it was logical that Rios Montt knew of what was happening in the country, but did nothing to stop it.

Hunger, systematic rape and forced displacements were all used as tools of war against the Ixil people for whom merely being a member of the indigenous group was a "mortal offence" in the military government's brutal pursuit of left-wing guerrillas.

Judge Barrios's summary and subsequent sentencing of Rios Montt was everything that human rights organisations and victims' families' groups in Central America had been hoping to hear for decades. Now the 86-year-old former general is facing the rest of his life in prison, though he is almost certain to appeal on the grounds of his age.

'A historic decision'

The retired general had denied the charges, saying he neither knew of nor ordered the massacres while in power.

He is expected to appeal against the court's decision on the grounds of his age.

Rios Montt's former chief of military intelligence, Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, who was on trial with him, was acquitted.

It is the first time a former head of state had been found guilty of genocide by a court in his or her own country.

Other genocide convictions have been handed down by international courts.

Relatives and indigenous leaders cheered when the sentence was read out by Judge Jazmin Barrios in Guatemala City.

Rios Montt was sentenced to 50 years for genocide and 30 years for crimes against humanity.

"The Ixils were considered public enemies of the state and were also victims of racism, considered an inferior race," Judge Barrios said.

People celebrate conviction of Rios Montt. 10 May 2013 There were cheers in the court as the verdict was read out
"The violent acts against the Ixils were not spontaneous. They were planned beforehand."

The BBC's Central America correspondent Will Grant says it is a historic decision and a huge breakthrough for human rights in the region.

During the nearly two-month trial, dozens of victims gave harrowing testimony about atrocities committed by soldiers.

An estimated 200,000 people were killed in Guatemala's 1960-1996 civil war, the vast majority of them indigenous Mayans.

Prosecutors said Rios Montt presided over the war's bloodiest phase. They said he turned a blind eye as soldiers used rape, torture and arson against those suspected of supporting leftist rebels.

The trial has been beset with delays, legal loopholes and a temporary suspension.

BBC News - Guatemala's Rios Montt found guilty of genocide (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-22490408)

11 May 13,, 15:15
I won't pretend this is an unbiased account, but it is a useful reminder of a few things our presumptive moral betters would rather we forget.

Guatemala's Former Leader Charged with Genocide. Pat Robertson Enabled It


Nearly thirty years ago, Guatemala's ruthless dictator, José Efraín Ríos Montt and televangelist Pat Robertson were practically tied at the hip. Now, Guatemala's judicial system is debating how to handle charges of genocide against the former military dictator, while Robertson, who had praised Ríos Montt for his ‘enlightened leadership,' appears to have turned his back on his old friend.

In the early 1980s, José Efraín Ríos Montt, a military general was a favorite of the Reagan Administration and U.S. Christian conservative evangelical leaders - particularly televangelist Pat Robertson -- and organizations. Ríos Montt was one of a series of military dictators that masterminded the murders of perhaps as many as 200,000 Guatemalans -- including tens of thousands of Mayan people -- as well as the destruction of a numerous Mayan villages.

Now, some thirty years later, Ríos Montt, whose rule as de-facto president lasted for seventeen months in 1982 and 1983 -- taking over in a military coup before being ousted by a subsequent military coup - has been ordered "to stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity," the New York Time recently reported.

Ríos Montt is accused of being responsible for at least 1,770 deaths, 1,400 human rights violations, and the displacement of nearly 30,000 indigenous Guatemalans.

This is the first time a Latin American court has charged a former president with genocide.

In late February, however, the judge in charge of the trial, Carol Patricia Flores, stepped down after being accused of being biased in the case. According to several press accounts, the new judge, Miguel Angel Galvez, who before postponing a scheduled hearing until the 1st of March, said that the charges against Ríos Montt as well as the conditions of his bail and house arrest, would remain in place.

During Ríos Montt's reign, "the military carried out a scorched-earth campaign in the Mayan highlands as soldiers hunted down bands of leftist guerrillas. Survivors have described how military units wiped out Indian villages with extraordinary brutality, killing all the women and children along with the men. Military documents of the time described the Indians as rebel collaborators, the New York Times reported."

A United Nations-backed truth commission, "set up after a peace accord in 1996, found that 200,000 people were killed during the civil war, mostly by state security forces. The violence against Mayan-Ixil villages amounted to genocide because the entire population was targeted, the commission concluded," the Times pointed out.

The Religious Right and the Ruthless Dictator

Thirty years ago, the Religious Right played a significant role in U.S.-Central American relations: vigorously supporting President Ronald Reagan's so-called low-intensity wars in the region - the contras in Nicaragua, right wing paramilitary death squads in El Salvador, and military dictators in Guatemala - a policy that was responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of people. The Religious Right's support was in part couched in the struggle against communism, and in part tied to what they hoped would be the expansion of evangelical Protestantism in the region.

Guatemala's José Efraín Ríos Montt was a favorite of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Loren Cunningham's Youth With A Mission (YWAM), and televangelist Pat Robertson.

In his book, The Most Dangerous Man in America?: Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition, Americans United's Rob Boston pointed out that Pat Robertson had praised Ríos Montt for his "enlightened leadership" and claimed that the dictator insisted on "honesty in government." Observed Robertson, "I was in Guatemala three days after Ríos Montt overthrew the corrupt [previous] government. The people had been dancing in the street for joy, literally fulfilling the words of Solomon who said, 'When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.'"

According to Right Web, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies, "Within a week of the 1982 coup ... Robertson flew to Guatemala to meet with the new president. Ríos Montt's first interview as president was with Robertson, who aired it on [his Christian Broadcasting Network's program]‘The 700 Club' and praised the new military government. Robertson also urged donations for International Love Lift, a relief project of Ríos Montt's U.S. church, Gospel Outreach. Ríos Montt said that Pat Robertson had offered to send missionaries and ‘more than a billion dollars' in aid from U.S. fundamentalists. Robertson, however, claimed that he hoped to match the earlier CBN donation of $350,000 in earthquake relief and send ‘a small team of medical and agricultural experts' to Guatemala. CBN reportedly sponsored a campaign to send money and agricultural and medical technicians to help design the first model villages under Ríos Montt."

In her 1989 book, Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right (South End Press), Sara Diamond wrote: "Ríos Montt's ascension to power was celebrated by the U.S. Christian Right as a sign of divine intervention in Central America."

While Robertson never delivered the sums of money Ríos Montt expected, Diamond pointed out that the promise "enabled Ríos Montt to convince the U.S. Congress that he would not seek massive sums of U.S. aid. Instead, he would rely on ‘private aid' from U.S. evangelicals. Toward that end, Ríos Montt's aide... came to the United States for a meeting with... [Presidential counselor] Edwin Meese, Interior Secretary James Watt... and Christian Right leaders Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Loren Cunningham)."

In an article written prior to the publication of her book, Diamond pointed out that Montt was a member of Gospel Outreach, a fundamentalist sect based in Eureka, California, which became the Church of the Word. Diamond noted that "The Gospel in Guatemala," a PBS documentary, "revealed the complicity of Gospel Outreach in the Guatemalan Army's administration of camps for refugees from Rios Montt's brutal counterinsurgency massacres of Mayan Quiche Indians."

In the September 25, 2006 edition of The Nation magazine, Max Blumenthal reported that, Loren Cunningham, according to Diamond "was a follower of Christian Reconstructionism an extreme current of evangelical theology that advocates using stealth political methods to put the United States under the control of Biblical law and jettison the Constitution."

These days, while Guatemalans are seeking justice, Pat Robertson is still selling snake oil on his "700 Club." One of the Grand Old Men of televangelism is no longer as significant a political figure that he once was.

"In 1996, I called Pat Robertson ‘the most dangerous man in America,' but I wouldn't do that now," Americans United's Rob Boston told me in an email. "Robertson is clearly in his dotage and is no longer the powerful political figure he once was. His influence declined greatly when the Christian Coalition collapsed. Without a large political organization behind him, Robertson became just another TV preacher ranting over the airwaves."

Boston was careful, however, to give Robertson his props. "That doesn't mean we should dismiss Robertson as an unimportant figure," Boston explained. "The model he used to launch the Christian Coalition has been copied by others, including the Family Research Council, thus ensuring that his legacy will be felt for many years to come."

Meanwhile, according to two experienced right-wing watchers, Robertson has not so much as uttered the name of his former Guatemalan contact, José Efraín Ríos Montt, on "The 700 Club."

Guatemala's Former Leader Charged with Genocide. Pat Robertson Enabled It (http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/item/11365-guatemalas-former-leader-charged-with-genocide-pat-robertson-enabled-it)

11 May 13,, 21:22
I was in Guatemala in 96. I'd spent some time in San Cristóbal de las Casas in Oaxaca, gone to Tikal for the obligatory tourist gawp then somehow ended up in Belize; drunk, disorganised and displeased.
I ended up convincing the owner of a diving skiff to make a small detour to Livingston and so technically snuck into the country but the Guatemalans didn't seem to mind. Had a fabulous time, magnificent food, astonishing scenery and as soon as I opened my mouth and convinced them I wasn't American (no offence to Americans) incredibly friendly people. Avoided Guatemala City but Livingston, Antigua and whatever that small town is by lake Atitlan? were sensational. Venison with chocolate mole, sitting in the ruins of a cathedral in twilight with massive volcanoes as scenery. Watching the walking the carpets ceremony in Antigua. Finding the best silversmith I've ever seen in a village on the shores of Atitlan. Buying a blanket that kept me warm for the next 6 months and has kept both my kids toasty on frosty nights ever since. Getting utterly high on some sort of home brew a bunch guys who looked and talked like magpies shared with me while we watched some other westerners get drunk and throw up on rum and beer.
Love the country, love the people, my best wishes for them all and long may they continue in peace and prosperity.

Oh, and long may Montt and his ilk rot in prison.

10 Jun 13,, 19:01
Rios Montt's former chief of military intelligence, Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, who was on trial with him, was acquitted.
I don't quite understand this verdict. How could he not be complicit?

10 Jun 13,, 19:06
Former chief of military intelligence part is crucial ;)

He was just following orders.

11 Jun 13,, 08:12
Former chief of military intelligence part is crucial ;)

He was just following orders.
Numerous national and international courts have long established that 'following orders' is not a valid defense for clearly criminal actions.

As a Chief of Staff and the Guatemalan G2, Sanchez would have provided all operational and tactical intelligence to field commanders.

Such a verdict makes me seriously question the entire veracity of this trial.

11 Jun 13,, 08:59
Numerous national and international courts have long established that 'following orders' is not a valid defense for clearly criminal actions.
I was just speculating his possible defense. Am sure Xinhui or BF know more about the case.

As a Chief of Staff and the Guatemalan G2, Sanchez would have provided all operational and tactical intelligence to field commanders.
Part of the job ;) Also, holding said positions means he can still have connections.

Such a verdict makes me seriously question the entire veracity of this trial.
What, there are no shocking verdicts in the other parts of the world?

11 Jun 13,, 09:12
Part of the job ;) Also, holding said positions means he can still have connections.

What, there are no shocking verdicts in the other parts of the world?
I'm sure there are. That said, these particular verdicts were posted here at WAB for inspection and comment.

11 Jun 13,, 11:16
I wouldn't be expecting great things from Guatemalen courts after the fiasco of the Rios Montt trial. There have been some convictions, but the big guys seem to lead charmed lives.

Read & weep:

Guatemala's highest court on Monday overturned a genocide conviction against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt and reset his trial back to when a dispute broke out a month ago over who should hear the case.

Rios Montt, 86, was found guilty on May 10 of overseeing the killings by the armed forces of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil population during his 1982-83 rule. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison.

However, in a ruling on Monday, the country's Constitutional Court ordered that all the proceedings be voided going back to April 19, when one of the presiding judges suspended the trial because of a dispute with another judge over who should hear it.

It was unclear when the trial might restart.........

....At the time the row broke out between the judges, a number of appeals were lodged with the Constitutional Court over alleged irregularities in the handling of the case.

One related to Francisco Garcia, one of Rios Montt's defense lawyers, who had just won an appeal to be readmitted to the case. Garcia was thrown out when the trial began for repeatedly trying to have two of the three presiding judges recused.

When Garcia was reinstated, he tried to recuse the judges again, but they rejected his bid and proceeded with the case.

The Constitutional Court said the judges should have suspended the trial until the recusal attempt had been officially resolved. A spokesman for the court could not say how the recusal bid needed to be formally settled.

Diana Cameros, a psychologist who attended the Rios Montt trial, attacked the Constitutional Court over its ruling.

"It's absurd," she told Reuters. "It said in a previous ruling that the process couldn't be wound back to stages that had already concluded, and now it's saying something that contradicts what they said before."

The court said it had given the judges who sentenced Rios Montt 24 hours to comply with its order.

After spending a couple of nights in prison, Rios Montt was transferred to a hospital last week for treatment for respiratory and prostate problems......

.....The retired general returned to politics after his fall from power and later unsuccessfully ran for president. For years, he avoided prosecution because he had immunity as a congressman. That ended when he left Congress in 2012.

Until August 2011, when four Guatemalan soldiers received 6,060-year prison sentences for mass killings in the northern village of Dos Erres in 1982, no convictions had been handed down for massacres carried out during the war.

Guatemala's top court annuls Rios Montt genocide conviction | Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/21/us-guatemala-riosmontt-idUSBRE94K04I20130521)

The Guatemalan war crimes tribunal, which found former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt guilty of genocide before the sentence was struck down by the country's constitutional court, announced last week that the re-trial would not begin until April 2014. The constitutional court had thrown out the decision and ordered a repeat of all trial proceedings taking place between April 19 -- when Rios Montt was briefly left without a lawyer after the one representing him stormed out in protest -- and May 10, when the 80-year prison sentence was handed down.

Witnesses who gave testimony to the tribunal on the massacres, pillages and rapes that took place in indigenous villages in the Guatemalan highlands of El Quiché are reportedly doubting whether they will return, having lost their faith that their testimony will yield justice.

During trial proceedings, 98 Ixil Mayan villagers testified to the court on the massacres taking place between March 1982 and August 1983, when the general, now 86, ruled over the country. Their faces obscured to conceal their identities, they told the court of women gang raped by soldiers, people who were forced to watch as their loved ones were tortured and killed, children abducted and crops destroyed, and entire communities of Ixiles who faced starvation after fleeing their villages. On April 4, one witness -- this one a former army mechanic who was serving in the region in the government's war against leftist guerillas at the time of the massacres -- drew audible gasps from the court when he implicated current Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina in the torching of villages and execution of villagers. Pérez Molina acknowledged that he had been a commander in the area, but denied having given any such orders.

But in the days after the Ixil witnesses gave their testimony, according to IPS News, a group of people came to Santa Maria Nebaj -- the community where they live -- claiming to be carrying out a census for a government agricultural development group. The supposed officials only visited the houses of witnesses, whose names and ID numbers they already knew. Suspicious villagers reported the incident to the local branch of the Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH), which found that no record of the census group existed. CALDH filed a complaint with the Guatemalan human rights ministry, demanding guarantees that the witnesses would remain safe.

Still, the witnesses were determined. Antonio Caba told IPS in mid-April, "Since I started this struggle, I haven't been scared. I trust in what I'm saying. We need a real sentence."

Since then, however, some of them are reportedly changing their tone. CALDH spokesman José Rodríguez told IPS, "The victims have said that they're not toys to be called upon whenever. They trusted in justice and now they feel disappointed and frightened."

Some 1,771 Ixiles were killed in the massacres -- about 5.5 percent of Guatemala's Ixil population.

Rios Montt Trial To Resume In April 2014 While Witness Fear Deepens : News : Latin Times (http://www.latintimes.com/articles/5025/20130610/rios-montt-trial-genocide-2014-witnesses-fear.htm)

11 Jun 13,, 19:30
I wouldn't be expecting great things from Guatemalen courts after the fiasco of the Rios Montt trial. There have been some convictions, but the big guys seem to lead charmed lives. Read & weep:
Not entirely surprised. The acquittal of co-defendant Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez was a tip-off.