Rios Montt

January 31, 2012

News came that Rios Montt is to be tried in Guatemala for genocide.  During the early 1980s, with the support of our gallant Cold Warrior leader, Ronald Reagan, Montt took over the country and instituted a scorched earth campaign against so-called communist guerillas.  Scorched earth is a literal description, and hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed by the army, almost all of them members of indigenous Mayan tribes.  No distinction was made between combatants and civilians, women and men, adults and children.  Slaughter was indiscriminate and widespread.

The interest of the US in all of this, for which President Clinton later apologized to the Guatemalan people, is summarized in Wikipedia this way:

Given Ríos Montt’s staunch anticommunism and ties to the United States, the Reagan administration continued to support the general and his regime, paying a visit to Guatemala City in December 1982.   During a meeting with Ríos Montt on December 4, Reagan declared:  “President Ríos Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment. … I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice.”

Reagan claimed Guatemala’s human rights conditions were improving and overturned the arms embargo imposed on Guatemala by president Carter in 1977, by agreeing, in January 1983, to sell millions of dollars worth of military hardware, including weapons and vehicles, to the country’s government. The decision was taken in spite of records concerning human rights violations, by-passing the approval from Congress.  Meanwhile, a then-secret 1983 CIA cable noted a rise in “suspect right-wing violence” and an increasing number of bodies “appearing in ditches and gullies.”   

Montt is also an evangelical Christian, and very devout.