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General Efraín Ríos Montt (center) announcing his military coup, Guatemala City, March 23, 1982.
General Efraín Ríos Montt (center) in happier times—for him—announcing
 his military coup, in Guatemala City, March 23, 1982.
I'm not usually a "breaking news" kind of guy. But what has happened today in Guatemala brought a cold smile to my lips. José Efraín Ríos Montt, the general and president (by coup) who ordered the slaughter of thousands of Maya in the 1980s, has been convicted of genocide.

While these murders were being committed, that piece of shit Ronald Reagan said of him: "President Ríos 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." To get around a congressional prohibition of military aid to Ríos Montt and his generals, Reagan reclassified some equipment so it could be provided to them as civilian aid. Like the rest of the Reagan administration's Central American policy, this was undertaken amid the deepest cynicism. The BBC reports:

Rios Montt was convicted of ordering the deaths of 1,771 people of the Ixil Maya ethnic group during his time in office in 1982 and 1983.

Survivors described horrific abuses committed by the army against those suspected of aiding left-wing rebels.

The retired general had denied the charges, saying he neither knew of nor ordered the massacres while in power.

He is expected to appeal against the court's decision.

Aryeh Neier recently wrote:
The prosecutor alleged that Ríos Montt and Rodriguez Sanchez, his chief of intelligence, were responsible for the killing of 1,771 Ixils—one of Guatemala’s twenty-two distinct indigenous peoples—and the forced displacement of another 29,000, many them tortured or sexually abused by the army. Testifying in the Ixil language, with a court interpreter translating into Spanish, two witnesses described a 1982 massacre in the village of Canaquil, near Nebaj, the largest of the three towns in what is known as the Ixil Triangle, in Guatemala’s western highlands. One of them, who was twenty-one at the time, said his sister-in-law was among those killed, and told the court that the soldiers burned the bodies of the dead and also burned houses and killed animals. He escaped, he said, by fleeing into the mountains. The other witness was nine years old. He said he was shot at as he fled, and hid in a creek. When he eventually returned to the village after the violence ended, he found that his parents and his two siblings, aged one and five or six years old, had been killed.
A lot more than that were murdered during his brief rule. But he wasn't the only general who oppressed the indigenous population and killed those who raised even the mildest protest. All this spilled blood can be traced ultimately to the 1954 CIA-engendered coup d'etat (in Spanish, el golpe de estado) that overthrew Jacobo Arbenz at the behest of John Foster Dulles, then Secretary of State, and his brother Allen Dulles, head of the CIA. Arbenz was only the second president elected in fair and free elections in Guatemala's history.

I know that many of my Guatemalan friends will be celebrating tonight. But it will be a celebration that includes a copious flow of tears. To them I say: I wish I were there with you, in Huehuetenango, Chichicastenango, Antigua and Champerico, raising a glass to this tiny bit of belated justice.

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