Friday, May 10, 2013

Rios Montt shamelessly declares innocence in the face of overwhelming evidence

Endless defense maneuverings interrupted the genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on April 19th. These legal machinations continue & still threaten the completion of the trial since several courts are competing for jurisdiction. But the trial proceeded & closing arguments are now being presented.

Yesterday, Rios Montt asked to address the court to declare his innocence--although he has dummied up for the past 30 years on his leading role in genocide against the Mayan people. The shameless beast, who reportedly has appeared cavalier throughout the trial, proclaimed his innocence to a courtroom packed with victims, family members of victims & representatives of indigenous, human rights, & student groups. This is no case of “he said-she said”; his crimes & his culpability are fully documented. But with breathtaking condescension, Rios Montt claimed he was so busy with national matters he didn’t notice what his generals were doing in the provinces.

Rios Montt was trained in genocide at the US School of the Americas (SOA). That’s why the US helped make him their henchman to fight “counterinsurgency operations” in Guatemala. With the collusion of other generals also trained at the SOA, he unleashed “Operation Sofia” on the Mayan communities destroying over 600 Mayan villages with a scorched earth policy of arson, massacre, mass rape, & crimes too unspeakable to describe.

There’s plenty of documentation for these crimes evidencing that the highest levels of Guatemala’s government were involved in their planning & direction. The Human Rights Office of the Guatemalan Archdiocese & Amnesty International have issued substantial human rights reports describing the atrocities. The National Security Archive housed at George Washington University (a non-governmental archival institution) has a raft of declassified US documents showing the culpability of Rios Montt, his generals, & other government officials.

But most importantly, there were days of testimony at the trial by witnesses to the genocide. One survivor, Juan Raymundo Matón testifed: “They looked down at us like animals, they killed us.” He added: “During this policy of scorched earth, they destroyed everything, not just our crops but our culture. People couldn’t even speak their own languages....I came to give my testimony; they ask who made you testify but I came because of my own pain, my sadness. Maybe I didn’t express myself well enough but all the people who came to do this, I saw with my own eyes. Many neighbors were shot to death. I went with to bury them. Some could only be buried in a hole like animals. At that moment there was only time to open up a hole and bury them. Or sometimes the poor people only had time to throw them in a river.”

This is Senor Matón’s indictment: “There is no peace. We lost everything: our land, our animals, our clothes but no one has replaced it. The government did it, the government is here but won’t do anything. On the contrary, they look down on us. Excuse my expression. The pain will only end when I die.” This photo is of Mayans raising a banner of indictment to commemorate the 45,000 to 70,000 who were disappeared.

Rios Montt may be able to weasel out of legal retribution because of the compromised judicial system of Guatemala but he will never live down the stench of his crimes or the power of such testimony or the determination of the Mayan people to find justice.

(Photo by Natasha Pizzey-Siegert)

1 comment:

  1. The Latin Americanist: Former Guatemalan strongman (an understatement!) Efraín Ríos Montt was sentenced on Friday to eighty years in prison after a court convicted him of genocide. The 86-year-old ex-general thus becomes the first former Latin American leader ever found guilty of such a charge.

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