Following a long awaited trial, a Guatemalan High Risk Court has issued a guilty verdict against former military dictator José Efrain Ríos Montt. The 86-year-old ex-general was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity against the indigenous Mayan Ixil population during Guatemala’s Civil War. He was sentenced to a total of 80 years in prison.
A three-judge panel found retired military strongman Ríos Montt guilty on all charges, which stemmed from the massacre of 1,771 Mayan Ixils, massive displacement, and subjecting the Ixil group to conditions designed to destroy it. The actions were part of military plans in 1982 – 1983 to eliminate not only the guerrilla forces in the internal armed conflict, but anyone suspected of supporting their objectives. It is estimated that in the course of the three-decades of armed conflict some 200,000 people were killed or forcibly disappeared, the vast majority of them indigenous Mayan Indians.
As a young journalist, I travelled to the region and covered guerrilla wars in El Salvador and Guatemala. Make no mistake about it. Montt was a ruthless dictator, who also served as president of Congress, then preached as an evangelical pastor and finally, has become infamous by becoming the first Latin American strongman to be tried and convicted of genocide inside his country.
Photo: Associated Press