Efraín Ríos Montt Found Guilty of Genocide!
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards Justice.
SOA Watch celebrates the guilty verdict against the former Guatemalan dictator and School of the Americas Graduate Efraín Ríos Montt, who was sentenced to 80 years in prison. We celebrate and stand in solidarity with the Ixil Mayans, the survivors of the genocide and crimes against humanity committed under his dictatorship (1982-1983).
General Ríos Montt was the first ex-head of state to stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in his home country. Doubts arose throughout the 7 weeks of harrowing trial testimony whether or not the Guatemalan justice system would be capable of withstanding dark political forces and threats of violence to deliver the only result supported by the evidence. We applaud the judge's bravery and strongly worded verdict, which has created an echo of hope throughout the Americas and the rest of the world.
SOA Watch renews the demand that justice also visit those who trained, equipped, and facilitated his genocidal regime. School of the Americas graduates formed the backbone of the presidential cabinets under the dictatorships of both Montt and his predecessor, Romeo Lucas García. They were also deeply involved in the Guatemalan Intelligence Agency (D-2), in the formation of the notorious civil defense patrols, and in planning and executing "Operation Sofia". This military maneuver wiped out some 600 Mayan villages, part of a broader campaign "of genocide against groups of Mayan people," as concluded by the 1999 UN-backed truth commission. Montt is the first ex-president to be found guilty of genocide by a Latin American court---it indicates that the tide is turning against impunity in the region, however, we must also hold those in the United States accountable, who trained and equipped the right-wing military dictatorships and made the genocide possible.
After a meeting with Ríos Montt in Honduras during the US-backed Dirty Wars in Central America, then-president Ronald Reagan stated that Ríos Montt was “a man of great personal integrity . . . totally dedicated to democracy”. The next day, December 6, 1982, the Kaibiles, the Guatemalan special forces which have extensive ties to the SOA, entered the village of Las Dos Erres, systematically raped the women, and killed 162 inhabitants, 67 of them children. Current President of Guatemala Otto Peréz Molina, also a graduate of the SOA, spent much of his time in military service as a member of the Kaibiles. This military unit was developed by the Guatemalan government in 1974, and its initial leader was a fellow SOA graduate by the name Pablo Nuila Hub. Also during the military career of Molina, he served as Montt's Ixil field commander, under the alias Major Tito Arias. For a more detailed SOA Watch report about the Kaibiles, click here.It was the current administration of Peréz Molina who, fearing Molina's complicity in much of the evidence brought forth in the trial against Montt, who stood to benefit from the temporary suspension of the trial. Thankfully justice prevailed and the trial resumed.
But since today represents a new dawn for the Ixil, Guatemalans and other survivors of systematic violence, we celebrate with hope in our hearts and a renewed sense of purpose. SOA Watch continues to call for the closure of the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) and for an investigation into the connections between U.S. military training and human rights abuses in Latin America. We will continue fighting in the streets, as well as our judicial and legislative branches until we also see justice for the victims of the SOA. Please contact your Member of Congress to urge them to close down the SOA: Click here.
As a commemoration to the inevitability of justice coming to light, we also point to our recent victory in the courtrooms of the United States, in which a federal judge from California has ordered that the State Department grant an SOA Watch request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demanding the release of the names of graduates and instructors from the SOA/WHINSEC, which we have previously been denied. Read more about the victory here.
Human rights activists throughout the Americas are calling on President Obama to shut down the School of the Americas and for Congress to cut the funding for the school and to conduct a Congressional investigation into the connection between human rights abuses in Latin America and U.S. military training. From November 22-24, we will take this message with us to the gates of Fort Benning, where Ríos Montt and scores of other human rights abusers were trained. With the strength of social movements across the Americas, we will take direct action against the focal point of several atrocities committed under the banner of US foreign policy, the School of Americas/WHINSEC.
P.S. Listen to "Guilty," by Rebel Diaz, perfect song for the occasion.