Guatemalan dictator EfraÃn RÃos Montt by YouTube
has been convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity by a three judge tribunal in Honduras.
1982 coup On March 7, 1982, General Ãngel AnÃbal Guevara, the official party candidate, won the presidential election, universally denounced as fraudulent by opposition parties. On March 23, with the support of fellow soldiers, General Horacio Egberto Maldonado Schaad and Colonel Francisco Luis Gordillo MartÃnez, RÃos Montt deposed General Romeo Lucas GarcÃa in a coup d'etat and seized power, an act which the United States was neither complicit with nor had even forseen. They set up a military junta with RÃos Montt at its head. The junta immediately suspended the constitution, shut down the legislature, set up secret tribunals, and began a campaign against political dissidents that included kidnapping, torture, and extrajudicial assassinations. The coup was described as being of the Oficiales jÃ³venes ("young officers"), and prevented Guevara from being installed as president on July 1.
There was an attempt by RÃos Montt to win over the large insurgent groups to his version of the rule of the law, unleashing a scorched earth campaign on the nation's Mayan population, particularly in the departments of Quiche and Huehuetenango , that, according to the 1999 United Nations truth commission, resulted in the annihilation of nearly 600 villages.
In 1982, an Amnesty International report estimated that over 10,000 indigenous Guatemalans and peasant farmers were killed from March to July of that year, and that 100,000 rural villagers were forced to flee their homes. According to more recent estimates, tens of thousands of non-combatants were killed by the regime's death squads in the subsequent eighteen months. At the height of the bloodshed under RÃos Montt, reports put the number of killings and disappearances at more than 3,000 per month.
Given RÃos Montt's staunch anticommunism and ties to the United States, the Reagan administration continued to support the general and his regime, paying a visit to Guatemala City in December 1982. During a meeting with RÃos Montt on December 4, Reagan declared: "President RÃos Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment. ... I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice.
President Ronald Reagan claimed Guatemala's human rights conditions were improving and used this to justify several major shipments of military hardware to Rios Montt; $4 million in helicopter spare parts and $6.3 million in additional military supplies in 1982 and 1983 respectively. The decision was taken in spite of records concerning human rights violations, by-passing the approval from Congress. Meanwhile, a then-secret 1983 CIA cable noted a rise in "suspect right-wing violence" and an increasing number of bodies "appearing in ditches and gullies."