Efrain Ríos Montt

Former President of Guatemala

Essential Question

Is it possible to justify the actions of Efrain Ríos Montt according to the documentation given during his dictatorship in Guatemala?


Efrain Ríos Montt was born June 16, 1926 in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. He joined the military in 1943 and quickly made it up the ranks. After years of service, he resigned from the army in 1974 and ran for president and lost due to a supposedly fraudulent election. Montt decided he was done with politics and military in 1976, and he joined the protestant Church of the World to become a pastor. Later on, he was involved in a coup d'etat that removed officials involved with more fraudulent elections held in 1982. Later, he became head of the triumvirate that ruled the country. Montt declared himself president in June 1982 after he forced the resignations of the two other members of the triumvirate. The counterinsurgency Civil Self-Defense Patrol which had thousands of members was led by Montt. He killed thousands of people in many different massacres occurring in different places. Ríos Montt proclaimed a state of siege due to armed rebellion, and the population had lost faith in him. He censored the press, established special tribunals, and denied reports of massacres and people being tortured and killed. Ríos Montt had little support from Guatemala, and a military coup removed him from office on August 8, 1983.

Ríos Montt on Trial

Ex-Dictator Rios Montt Stands Trial For Guatemala War Crimes
Ríos Montt is on trial and being accused of covering up several massacres and violent outbreaks that occurred while he was president. Guatemalan prosecutors have been working for almost a decade to have Ríos Montt put on trial. Genocide charges against him have been investigated back in 2006 for his possible involvement in the military activity. Ríos Montt had the nerve to forcefully declare himself the president of Guatemala in '82, and he was the absolute ruler of the country while it went in turmoil. There is little to no question that he had committed those crimes against humanity judging by the documentation.


Dear Efrain Ríos Montt,

There is much to be said about your legacy in Guatemala as president. You had lots of potential for improving Guatemala's future. Your involvement in the military coup that ended the streak of fixed elections was a groundbreaking moment for the country. Things were looking good until the outbreak of atrocities started occurring. Why is it that the indigenous population was such a burden to you? There is no logical reasoning for any of the killing that you did. You are a sick, cruel man, and it is unbelievable that anyone would support any of your actions. I hope that the outcome of the trial results in you in prison for the rest of your life.



"Efraín Ríos Montt." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2013.

"The Americas." Washington Post. N.p., 19 Mar. 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2013.