14 December 2006

Rios Montt

Patrick Daniels, co-chair of the Guatemala Solidarity Network has written a piece in the Guardian’s Comment is free section about Efraín Ríos Montt , Guatemalan dictator between 1982 and 1983 and the possibility that he will face justice for his crimes.

During a 36 year civil war between 1960 and 1996 approximately 200,000 people, mainly Mayans were killed or disappeared –responsibility for the overwhelming majority of these deaths rests with the Guatemalan military and militias under its command... The violence was its greatest during Rios Montt’s regime when the number of killings and disappearances exceeded 3,000 per month.

Rios Montt seized power in a coup on 23 March 1982. He immediately suspended the constiution and began a campaign against political opponents that included kidnapping, torture, and extra-judicial assassinations. In the countryside he unleashed a vicious campaign (known as frijoles y fusiles or beans and guns) against the nation’s indigenous Mayan population He was overthrown in a bloodless coup in August 1983 by General Meija Victores. After his removal he attempted a political career but was banned from running in presidential elections in 1990, 1994 and again in 2003.

In 1999 Nobel Peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchú and a group of Spanish and Guatemalan NGOs filed a suit in the Spanish national court against several senior Guatemalan officials, including Ríos Montt. The defendants were accused of terrorism, genocide and systematic torture.

In September 2005, the Spanish constitutional court ruled that Spanish courts had jurisdiction over crimes of international importance - such as torture, crimes against humanity and genocide - regardless of the nationality of the victims and perpetrators. An extradition warrant for the arrest of Ríos Montt was submitted the following month, and the Guatemalan constitutional court is currently considering the request.

Whereas Pinochet cheated justice Rios Montt may well face justice in Spain.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

Be good to see him in the nick. For about 200,000 years.

jams o donnell said...

It would be good to see him face trial. I don't know if it will happen.. his sort seem either to die in a coup or die in their beds. I really hope he bucks that trend.

Pete said...

Hopefully Spain can extradite him (always a major obstacle) unless he is being held in Spain already.


jams o donnell said...

He is in Guatemala so I can imagine it will be bloody hard to prise him out but here's hoping they can.

Roland Dodds said...

I have mixed feelings about trying these old military strong men. On one hand, I feel that enough blood has been shed fighting the ideological wars of the last century, and that letting these folks fade away and die is the right thing.

I also feel that thugs and dictators should be held accountable for their actions, and regardless of the fact that he is an old man, he should be put on trial. If only for symbolic reasons.

I don’t know hat I would do in this case, but I do think examples should be made even when you know it will change very little. The nation has moved on, and whether this man pays for previous crimes or not, will not alter that.

beakerkin said...

Hold on

Lets roll this one into its historical context.

Number 1 Rigoberta Menchu is a fraud and a proven liar. Only deranged Marxists would consider illiteracy a virtue.

Number 2 The Sandanistas and Cubans were funding Communist insurection in Guatemala. This often seems to be forgotten that a Civil War was in progress.

The Bullets and Beans program armed Civilians who could fight back against Communist agression and impressment. Even the critics of the program do acknowledge it did work.

The myopia of the left is the total ignorance of the crimes of the Commie guerillas and Sandanistas. I do not see the far left worried about helicopter massacres of Miskito indians carried out by Daniel Ortega with Palestinian Mercenaries. Even Ward Churchill and Russel means took up arms against the Sandanistas.

When the Indians fought back Gomer Kerry called them former Samoza Guardsmen. This is a false bill of goods.

jams o donnell said...

Roland, I am not sure anything will come from the move to extradite him but I think it is the right thing.

Beakerkin I don't deny a civil war was in progress but the overwhelming majority of the deaths were caused by the Guatemalan military and militias. I do not condone the killings comitted by the Buerilla movements.

If you mean that slaughter was the objective of Bullets and beans then, yes, it achieved its objective. you can't deny that Rios Montt's regime, while brief, was particularly murderous.

beakerkin said...


Communist guerilas were entirely armed and supported by outside elements. In fact as soon as the Cold War ended they all mysteriously vanished except FARC. FARC supports itself on the narcotics trade, but I have yet to hear the so called Progressive hypocrites say a word.

Communist terrorism was a fact in the
history of the vile movement. Communist executions are explained away as citizen X was a collaberator.

The Bullets and Beans program armed the popoulace so Communist impressment
and terrorism was much more dificult.
Commie thugs would enter a town for impressment but the town could protect itself. In fact one can make a case that Bullets for Beans was a more indigenous movement of the locals than the alleged internationalist mercenaries.

A civilian population has every right to defend itself from Communist agresion. Many of these people would be the first victims of class genocide.
In a sane world Rios Montt is a hero and University Marxists are fired. This is often over looked in the case of Pinochet where foreign mercenaries were in Chile and class genocide and military purges ala Katyn were planned.

Moreover you seem to forget the crimes of the Sandanistas against Miskito Indians that caused even far left Ward Churchill and Russel Means to take up arms. While the Native American leftist
took up arms to save themselves Gomer Kerry, Noam Chomsky and the Mary Knoll Disorder served PR wing for the Sandinazis.

Where is this concern about misrule in Zimbabwe, Cuba and North Korea where there are casualties and no Civil War.

jams o donnell said...

Err Beakerkin this post was about a Guatemalan dictator. If I want to criticise Mugabe, Komg Jong Il or anyone else I will do so but not in a post about a Guatemalan dictator

I do not accept your view that Rios Montt is any form of hero. I doubt I would wish to be in a "sane" world that thought that was the case

beakerkin said...


What is the government supposed to do allow the extortion and impressment of foreign trained Communist mercenaries? Are people like Pinochet and Montt supposed to wait around for a Katyn Massacre and go quietly.

Montt did what he had to do. Arming the peasants to fend for themselves proved very effective against Marxist agression.

We agree to disagree.

jams o donnell said...

I would contend that perpetrating Katyns to prevent Katyns is not exactly the act of a great ruler.

We have no common ground on this issue so agreeing to disagree is the best option.

Anonymous said...

By portraying the issues at stake here as essentially political rather than legal- posters like beakerkin and much of the Guatemalan military who'd undoubtedly sympathise with beakerkin's views, are effectively ducking the question. Oh and successfully kicking the 'genocide case' in Guatemala into the long long grass.

Rios Montt's last remaining explanation (that he clung to when standing for the presidential elections in 2003) was that he had protected Guatemalans from communism. Let's leave the whys or wherefores (or even the logic) of protecting a people by massacring/disappearing 200,000 people.

The fact remains that a mass of evidence has been compiled over many years by many people and by talking to many witnesses that points to Rios Montt (and others of course) being responsible for state sponsored genocide. Legally- crimes against humanity such as genocide are in breach of international conventions. If these conventions are to mean anything- the rule of law needs to be enforced one way or another- and not continually ducked.

It may well be that in time other world leaders (of whatever political persuasion) will also be accused and cases made to try them of such crimes against humanity. The central issue here up for debate is what we (the international community) do when such fundamental international law is broken. I contend that Rios Montt should have his day in court and account for what he has done- others may argue against this legal reasoning. But anything less is to indulge effectively in idle political gossip.


beakerkin said...


Wrong again the responsability for any deaths belongs to the Cuban and Soviet instigators. The fact reains that this was a Civil war and arming the populace from populace predations is a legitamate tactic.

Protecting your country from Communist subversion is not a crime. There sees to be an odd double standard where a Rios Montt is prosecuted for protecting his country and Communist Thugs like the verin in Vietnam, Zibabwe and Cuba never seem to get charged.

The hypocritical far left does not seem to mind Palestinians who allegedly work with Israel being lynched. Were any of those people tried
before being beaten to death by a mob.

As far as Menchu, she refused to say a single word about the Sandanista genocide of the Miskito Indians. Menchu
remains a fraud with a book that was discredited.