Efrain Rios Montt

Guatemalan Dictator 1982 - 1983

Early life

Born on June 16, 1926 in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, Ríos Montt joined the army in 1943. During his service, he quickly ascended the ranks and held various posts, including chief of army general staff under President Carlos Arana and assisted the U.S. in many military related matters. He received his professional education at the U.S. Fort Gulick in the Panama Canal Zone, at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and at the Army School of War in Italy.

Introduction into Politics

In 1974, Ríos Montt briefly resigned from the army and ran for president alongside the Christian Democratic Party. On the first counting, he was determined as the victor over his opponent, the National Liberation Movement Party. Upon a planned recount, however, the N.L.M.P. had more votes than Ríos Montt, and the election was won by the N.L.M.P. Citizens of Guatemala agree that the government illegally changed the election results in order to remain in power, stealing the presidency from Ríos Montt. In 1976, Ríos Montt retired from political and military life, and in 1978, he joined an evangelical Protestant church, the Church of the World, where he was made a pastor.

Rise to Power

On March 7, 1982, the government again held fraudulent elections, but a military coup d'état three weeks later removed that faction from power and elected Efrain Rios Montt as president of Guatemala. It is likely he was chosen for the position because the leaders of the coup believed the people of Guatemala would support a man who had been fraudulently denied his rightful position as president in 1974.

Creative Pictures

Dictatorship in Guatemala

In June 1982, Ríos Montt forced the resignations of the other two members of the ruling military triumvirate and instated himself as president. At first, people had hope of a new leader for their country, but then reports of continuing atrocities in rural Guatemala continued to pour in. Rural violence had in fact soared immediately after the installation of Ríos Montt. He established the counterinsurgency Civil Self-Defense Patrol with a membership of thousands. During his reign, Guatemala experienced one of its bloodiest periods of its history. In Huehuetenango, approximately 350 villagers were massacred in the middle of July 1982. Another 200 people were massacred a few days later in Baja Verapaz. Thousands more were killed in other massacres in other places. Catholic priests were prominent among the victims. Ríos Montt did not try very hard to deny the army's involvement in those atrocities. It is estimated that 200,000 more Guatemalans ran from the violence in Guatemala and entered Mexico during Ríos Montt's reign of terror.

The Genocide

The Guatemalan government, using the Guatemalan Army and its counter-insurgency force, began a systematic campaign of repressions and suppression against the Mayan Indians, whom they claimed were working towards an communist coup. Working methodically across the Mayan region, the army and its paramilitary teams, including 'civil patrols' of forcibly conscripted local men, attacked 626 villages. Each community was rounded up, or seized when gathered already for a celebration or a market day. The villagers, if they didn't escape to become hunted refugees, were then brutally murdered, others were forced to watch, and sometimes to take part. Buildings were vandalised and demolished. Children were often beaten against walls, or thrown alive into pits where the bodies of adults were later thrown; they were also tortured and raped. Victims of all ages often had their limbs amputated, or were impaled and left to die slowly. Others were doused in petrol and set alight, or disembowelled while still alive. Yet others were shot repeatedly, or tortured and shut up alone to die in pain.

Ex-Dictator Rios Montt Stands Trial For Guatemala

Dictator Efrain Rios Montt stood trial in February 2013 for his crimes against humanity. A judge dramatically denied 13 previous appeals by his defense team. He was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. This was a huge step for the Guatemalan government as they are finally able to deal with the man responsible for the killings of over 13,000 indigenous Guatemalans as well as citizens whom opposed Montt's rule.
Ex-Dictator Rios Montt Stands Trial For Guatemala War Crimes