comments_image Comments

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.

Continued from previous page


AMY GOODMAN: A thousand.

ALLAN NAIRN: Oh, I’m sorry, over a thousand workers—that this Ríos Montt case could also set a precedent for just starting to enforce the murder laws. And that can make their life a little more difficult. That can raise their labor costs. It has very serious implications for them.

And another aspect of this is that there’s going to be a fierce counterreaction against this verdict this week from the oligarchs, from the former military. They’re putting things out into the public calling Judge Barrios a dirty guerrilla, a hysterical Nazi. They have people following her around town with video cameras to try to imply that she’s not behaving in a proper manner for a judge. They’re going to try to get the courts, which have—other courts, which have traditionally been tools of the oligarchy and the military, to nullify the verdict against Ríos Montt. This battle is far from over.

AMY GOODMAN: Allan, there are three remarkable, prominent women who have—who are part of this verdict, who have helped to make it happen. One is the Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, one of—who brought suit, that has led to this trial. One is the attorney general, the first woman attorney general, Claudia Paz y Paz. And then there is Judge Barrios, the judge in this case. Can you talk about these women?

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, it was Rigoberta Menchú who helped to get this whole process started years ago with legal cases filed against Guatemalan generals for atrocities in the Mayan region. That helped produce a criminal court case in Spain, where—in the Audiencia Nacional, where the Spanish courts indicted and tried to extradite Guatemalan generals and former officials to Spain. I testified in that trial. And one of the survivors of the massacres who testified in that trial mentioned that Pérez Molina—this was an aside at the trial, because there were so many officers who were implicated—that Pérez Molina had been involved in this man’s torture.

One of the reasons that this case against Ríos Montt has been able to go forward is because the current attorney general, Paz y Paz, is a person of great integrity and has allowed it to go forward, obviously against the wishes of Pérez Molina and the oligarchy.

And Judge Barrios was the one who was—who was directly on the lines. She ran the trial. She was the one who had to deliver the verdict. As she left the courthouse every night, you could see her wearing a bulletproof vest. The judges and prosecutors involved in the case received death threats. In one case, a threat against a prosecutor, the person delivering the threat put a pistol on the table and said, "I know where your children are." It takes a lot of courage to push a case like this. And there are enough people in Guatemala who have been willing to stand up that it’s been able to go forward, but they’re doing so at considerable risk.

And just to give you an idea of the kind of environment they’re operating in, there’s a piece that just came out in Plaza Pública, one of the—kind of the leading political magazine in Guatemala, where they interview the families of the military, who have been protesting against the Ríos Montt trial. These are young people, now extremely rich because of all their money their parents stole in the military. And one of the topics that they talk about in this interview is the rape charges against the generals and colonels, because witness after witness talked about how indigenous women would be raped in the course of these massacre operations. And one of the military family men says that, "Well, yes, these rapes—some of these rapes may have happened, but they didn’t happen as a rule." And he then defends the military men by saying he doesn’t think that they would systematically rape the indigenous women, and he then uses language so vile that I can’t repeat it on the air. But the essence of his argument is that—his argument is not that they wouldn’t have done it because it would be wrong to rape or because it’s against the law to rape or because these military men have honor or because it’s indecent to rape; his point was that they wouldn’t have committed these mass rapes because they wouldn’t have—because of personal characteristics of the indigenous women, they would not have found them desirable. But he expresses it in the most disgusting language you can imagine. This is the oligarchy that has now been—and the military, that has now been stung by this verdict and is itching for payback.

See more stories tagged with: