Efrain Rios Montt
by Frankie Florian

1)Profile of your leader

Jose Efrain Rios Montt was born on June 16, 1926 in Huehuetenango, Guatemala and was an army general and politician who ruled Guatemala as the leader of a military junta and as dictator from 1982 to 1983. Ríos Montt joined the Guatemalan army in 1943 and rose to the rank of brigadier general and army chief of staff. After serving as director of the Inter-American Defense College in Washington, D.C., in 1973, he returned to Guatemala and ran unsuccessfully for president as the candidate of the National Opposition Front in 1974. He was then elected president of Guatemala in 1982. During Montt's presidency, taking control and action over the people of Guatemala was very important to him. During Montt's presidency he tortured, killed, subjected to sexual violence, or displaced over 1,700 civilians that were randomly selected. In 2013 he was tried by a Guatemalan court on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. His conviction and sentence of 80 years in prison were subsequently overturned by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court.

2)Montt Stands Trial for War Crimes

  • This video shows the trial that Montt had to appear before due to the charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The judge of the trial explains the controversy of the execution of over 1700 indigenous Ixil Mayans during Montt's 1982-1983 rule. Since Montt was the commander-in-chief of the Guatemalan Army during that time period, he was held responsible for the deaths. The victims of Montt wanted justice for making them and their families suffer when they were living under his rule.

3)Journal Entry by Montt Himself

May 9, 2013

At this point in time, I realized that there is no way out for me anymore. The trial for my convictions is tomorrow, May 10, 2013. I feel that I will be found guilty for my acts of terrorism and bad decisions that I made during my time of rule. I admit that I have caused many problems for numerous families in Guatemala during my reign of 1982-1983. I have made many people's lives hell and caused immense conflicts for Guatemala and it's people and I know that. Even though I do not have much life left, I still live everyday knowing that the actions I took when I was the dictator negatively affected thousands of people's lives. When I walk into the courtroom tomorrow I will be anxious to observe people's reactions towards me. The only person that knows the reason behind my poor choices in the time of my rule is me and I do not believe that I can prove otherwise. All I hope for is that the people in the courtroom will acknowledge and listen to my thoughts so I have a chance to speak and defend myself as much as I can.

Jose Efrain Rios Montt

4)Essential Question

Why do you think that the indigenous population of the Mayans were deliberately targeted by Rios Montt during his time of presidency?