Born-Again Killer Rios Montt Plans
Run for Guatemalan Congress
by Dan Bacher
Former Guatemalan dictator General Jose
Efrain Rios Montt, who prosecuted a Reagan administration-supported
war of genocide against the Mayan population, on January 17, 2007
announced that he plans to run for Congress in September. This
would provide him with immunity from prosecution on the charges
of genocide and other violations of human rights during the country's
36-year civil war, according to SOA (School of Americas) Watch.
Members of the country's Congress enjoy
immunity from prosecution unless they are suspended from office
by a court. "I am certain and sure" of getting a seat
in Congress, Rios Montt, told a news conference. Rios Montt, who
continues to be an influential and powerful politician in Guatemala,
ran for the presidency in 2004 and finished third (Associated
Press, January 17).
The Spanish National Court has charged
the former dictator, who attended a "special course"
in the 1950 at the SOA (now called WHINSEC -- the "Western
Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), with the crimes
of genocide, torture, terrorism and illegal detention. In July
2006, Spanish Judge Santiago Pedraz issued warrants for the arrest
of General Ríos Montt and several other former senior officials.
"The Guatemalan authorities subsequently
took some of the accused into custody in order to ensure that
they would not flee the country," according to Amnesty International.
"However, General Ríos Montt remains free. Strong
international pressure is needed to ensure that all either face
trial in Guatemala or are extradited to Spain."
Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize Winner Rigoberta
Menchu charged five ex-military officials and three ex-government
officials, including Rios Montt, in the disappearance of Spanish
priests and a fire at the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City that
killed Menchu's father and 36 others. A Guatemalan court is still
considering whether to order the arrest of the former dictator
and his associates for crimes committed while he ran the country
between March 1982 and August 1983.
Ríos Montt's rule was one of the
bloodiest periods in Guatemala's civil war when over 200,000 people,
mostly Mayan Indians, were killed or disappeared. The overwhelming
majority of these people were innocent civilians murdered by government
forces and paramilitary death squads. Rios Montt led his systematic
and brutal "scorched earth" campaign to wipe out large
portions of the country's indigenous population, under the guise
of "stopping communism," in what I refer to as the "Guatemalan
According to the United Nations-sponsored
Truth Commission, this bloody campaign resulted in the annihilation
of nearly 600 Mayan villages. The Commission concluded that acts
of genocide had been committed, "through methods whose cruelty
has outraged the moral conscience of the civilized world."
Survivors seeking justice for human rights
crimes committed during the most brutal period of Guatemala's
civil war have faced years of delays, obstruction and harassment.
Menchu and others have also asked courts in other countries to
hear their cases to exercise "universal jurisdiction"
over the crimes committed in Guatemala.
"Universal jurisdiction is based
on the principle that all countries have an interest in bringing
to justice those responsible for human rights atrocities, no matter
where the crimes were committed, and regardless of the nationality
of the perpetrators or the victims. International law permits
and -- in some cases -- requires every country to investigate
and, if there is sufficient evidence, to prosecute in such circumstances,"
Amnesty International explained in an action alert.
Rios Montt holds a special place in the
ranks of history's genocidal murderers with folks like Adolf Hitler,
Heinrich Himmler, Pol Pot and a number of U.S. presidents. President
Ronald Reagan and other U.S. officials strongly supported and
guided him in his campaign, so the blood of hundreds of thousands
of Guatemalans is also on U.S. hands. In addition, Israel provided
weapons and training to the former dictator's campaign of genocide.
The U.S. "Christian" right fervently
supported Rios Montt and his "scorched earth" policy
against the Mayan population. Rios Montt was a "born again"
mass murderer who was a member ("elder") of the Arcata,
California based Church of the Word (Verbo), a branch of Evangelical
Gospel Outreach. He surrounded himself with advisers, both North
American and Guatemalan, from his Verbo church. A loose coalition
of right-wing fundamentalist organizations, including Pat Robertson's
"Christian" Broadcasting Network, conducted an extensive
fundraising drive and sent volunteers to Ixil Triangle villages
under military control.
It would be the ultimate insult to the
dictator's multitudes of victims if he was able to achieve immunity
from prosecution by winning a seat in the Guatemalan Congress!
It is crucial that people concerned about justice for the victims
of the U.S.-engineered Guatemalan Holocaust exert powerful international
pressure to ensure that Rios Montt and other officials either
face trial in Guatemala or are extradited to Spain without delay.
To send a letter quickly via the web, go to: www.amnestyusa.org/international_justice/actions.do
Dan Bacher is an outdoor writer, alternative
journalist and satirical songwriter from Sacramento, California.
He is editor of the Central America Connection and contributes
to numerous publications and websites, including Dissident Voice,
CounterPunch, Because People Matter and the Sacramento News &
Review. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.