Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Update on Rios Montt trial in Guatemala

Ana de Leon weeps while giving her testimony against former Guatemalan dictator & retired general Jose Efrain Rios Montt. This is not the actual trial of Rios Montt & his co-defendant, Jose Rodriguez Sanchez. This is a three-judge panel listening to testimony to decide whether Rios Montt & Sanchez should stand trial or be exonerated for genocide against the Maya-Ixil people & three other ethnic groups in the 1980s.

No one should hold their breath hoping justice will be served & Rios Montt convicted. He’s 86-years-old & after all the legal stalling tactics have been exhausted he’s more likely to be put under house arrest as an elderly dictator with connections in high places. Not only is the judicial system compromised but the current president of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina, recently declared there was no genocide. Of course he’s just covering his own ass since he served under Rios Montt as general in charge of the scorched earth policy of rape, torture, & arson against the Ixil community in 1982-83 when 80-90% of the villages were razed. An estimated 200,000 people died & 45,000 were disappeared during that genocidal onslaught. They are still unearthing mass graves where the “disappeared” were dumped like trash.

Seventy-eight people have testified so far in the trial, including many Ixil women who were systematically gang-raped by soldiers & paramilitary groups. Many of these testified with their heads covered & without revealing their names. Rios Montt & Sanchez are only standing trial, however, due to the dogged efforts of the victims backed by a Guatemalan human rights group & a group whose members are survivors of the genocide.

It has been reported that Rios Montt is sitting through all this taking notes & even acting jovial. Apparently shame is no part of his nature; the expectation of impunity probably helps buoy his spirits.
Outside the courtroom, a group of soldiers & their unfortunate offspring are picketing with banners declaring “There was no genocide here” & speakers blasting Guatemala’s national anthem & army marching songs. They’re the ones who should be covering their heads.

(Photo by Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images)

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