Guatemala: Ríos Montt charged; Pérez Molina denies genocide

Guatemalan judge Carol Patricia Flores ruled on Jan. 26 that there was sufficient evidence to try former military dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-83) for genocide and other crimes against humanity. Some of the worst atrocities in a 36-year counterinsurgent war occurred during the time that Ríos Montt headed the government, including killings in the Ixil Mayan region that amounted to genocide according to a 1999 report by a United Nations-backed truth commission. The specific charges against Ríos Montt are based on 72 incidents that caused 1,771 deaths under his military command. (Jurist, Jan. 27)

Nery Rodenas, the director of the Human Rights Office of the Guatemala Archdiocese, called Judge Flores’ decision “brave,” but he noted the victims’ long struggle to reach this point. “This is a story that didn’t begin yesterday,” Rodenas said. “The victims have spent more than 10 years waiting. This has involved overcoming intimidation, threats and obstacles in the justice system.” Newly inaugurated Guatemala president Otto Pérez Molina, who was a major in the army during Ríos Montt’s regime, said he was respectful of judicial decisions, but he added: “There was no genocide; it was an armed internal conflict. Now we should be seeking reconciliation.” (Prensa Libre, Guatemala, Jan. 28; La Raza, Chicago, Jan. 28, from unidentified wire services)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 29.

See our last post on Guatemala.