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Guilty of Genocide: Guatemalan Dictator Sentenced to 80 Years in Jail

Ríos Montt was convicted of overseeing the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region.

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It took the—it took about 45 minutes for the prison police, who were supposed to drag Ríos Montt away, to get into the room. When they came in, I happened to be standing next to the door that they entered, and I asked, "Are you the guys who are supposed to take away Ríos Montt?" And you could see that they were extremely nervous. They were carrying long rifles. But, I mean, this is such an event that this is something they’ll be telling their grandchildren about.

AMY GOODMAN: And how did they take him out, after he tried to leave with his lawyers before they got there?

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, there was a huge swarm of press. He was taken out, and at one point, when he was being put into the police vehicle, you could see that he was being held by the scruff of his neck by the police who were taking him away to prison.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to talk about a very interesting CNNinterview with the current president of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina, because that’s the question everyone is asking now: Does this point the finger at him, he who enjoys immunity while he is president of Guatemala? We’re speaking with investigative journalist Allan Nairn in Guatemala City, attended the trial of Ríos Montt. Ríos Montt was found guilty of genocide and sentenced to 80 years in prison, where he sits today. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: We continue our discussion about the historic verdict against former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, found guilty Friday of genocide and crimes against humanity, sentenced to 80 years in prison. Shortly after the verdict was announced, Guatemala’s current president, Otto Pérez Molina, was interviewed on CNN en Español, Spanish CNN. The host, Fernando del Rincón, asked the president about his time, Otto Pérez Molina’s time, as a military commander, but the line mysteriously cut off right after he asked the question.

FERNANDO DEL RINCÓN: [translated] In September 1982, Allan Nairn, an investigative journalist, had documentation where Major Tito Arias appeared in a video in which he said, quote, "All the families," referencing to the families in the zone, "are with the guerrillas." That’s what you said in September 1982 in the video in an interview with Allan Nairn, an investigative journalist from the United States, who, for certain, was there to be questioned in this process against Ríos Montt.

Let’s see if we’ll return with the president, to see if we’ll hear his response to that.

AMY GOODMAN: CNN host Fernando del Rincón returned to the question when the satellite was restored later in the interview.

FERNANDO DEL RINCÓN: [translated] In 1982, you appear in a video of Allan Nairn’s, which you have confirmed that you appeared, then with the name Major Tito Arias, where you say, "All the families are with the guerrillas." What did you mean by that?

PRESIDENT OTTO PÉREZ MOLINA: [translated] Look, this is another case where a phrase is taken out of context of what we were talking about. I don’t think the thing is like that, Fernando.

FERNANDO DEL RINCÓN: [translated] No one is taking anything out of context. It is a video where it is a declaration you made.

PRESIDENT OTTO PÉREZ MOLINA: [translated] It must be raised. Of course you were taking it out of context. I can tell you here now. If you want, I can explain. In 1982—and you can come here to verify it everywhere—the faction of the guerrillas that was called the Guerrilla Army of the Poor in that area involved in entire families, without respecting their ages, from the elderly to the smallest children. They were given pseudonyms. They took over the local power. They built what they called "irregular local forces." They built what they called the "clandestine local committee." The plan was to burn. Better said, it wasn’t just a plan; they actually did burn the entire municipalities, in order to—

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