This blog post is timely and important but the backstory is too convoluted for crib notes.Interested readers can drill into these links for a universe of information that has not been reported by the American popular press. I follow both Hari Sreenivasan and Xeni Jardin via Twitter and have kept up with this trial by way of Xeni's Twitter messages, often in real time.
Here is today's PBS report.
Xeni on PBS NewsHour, in Guatemala: Ríos Montt genocide verdict and aftermath
May 14, 2013
Before leaving Guatemala today, I spoke with PBS NewsHour host Hari Sreenivasan about the aftermath and significance of Friday's court decision to convict former US-backed military dictator Rios Montt of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The report is archived here on YouTube, and here on the PBS NewsHour website with a full transcript, also below.
Related: My reporter's notebook on NewsHour from Guatemala, and a full report on the trial I produced with Miles O'Brien.Transcript at the link.
So why is this story important?
Because it has America's bloody fingerprints all over it.
►This man is a product of the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, which has been training, mentoring and turning out military strong men for years.
Guatemala, Ríos Montt And The SOA
Three decades after José Efraín Ríos Montt finished his coursework at the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA)—where tens of thousands of Latin American soldiers have been trained in the art of violent repression; it was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2001—he seized power in Guatemala, and then ripped its social fabric to shreds. “During the 14 months of Ríos Montt’s rule, an estimated 70,000 unarmed civilians were killed or ‘disappeared;’ hundreds of thousands were internally displaced,” according to Amnesty International. In the summer of 1982, he launched “Operation Sofia,” which destroyed 600 Mayan villages.
Had Ríos Montt lived centuries ago, he might be remembered as a hero today. We can compare him, for example, to the Admiral who, as scholar David Stannard recounts, on one campaign “set forth across the countryside, tearing into assembled masses of sick and unarmed native people, slaughtering them by the thousands.” That was Columbus on Hispaniola, back in March 1495. Or perhaps Ríos Montt is a worthy successor to the man the Iroquois dubbed “Town Destroyer” in the 1770s. Historian Robert A. Ferguson relates the words of Seneca Chief Cornplanter: “When that name is heard, our women look behind them and turn pale, and our children cling close to the necks of their mothers.” The Indians were referring to George Washington.Go to the link for a long, detailed further description of this man's background.
Global Research, May 13, 2013
|Image: Rios Montt with Ronald Reagan|
The conviction of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide against Mayan villagers in the 1980s has a special meaning for Americans who idolize Ronald Reagan. It means that their hero was an accessory to one of the most grievous crimes that can be committed against humanity.
The courage of the Guatemalan people and the integrity of their legal system to exact some accountability on a still-influential political figure also put U.S. democracy to shame. For decades now, Americans have tolerated human rights crimes by U.S. presidents who face little or no accountability. Usually, the history isn’t even compiled honestly.
By contrast, a Guatemalan court on Friday found Rios Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced the 86-year-old ex-dictator to 80 years in prison. After the ruling, when Rios Montt rose and tried to walk out of the courtroom, Judge Yasmin Barrios shouted at him to stay put and then had security officers take him into custody.
Yet, while Guatemalans demonstrate the strength to face a dark chapter of their history, the American people remain mostly oblivious to Reagan’s central role in tens of thousands of political murders across Central America in the 1980s, including some 100,000 dead in Guatemala slaughtered by Rios Montt and other military dictators.
Indeed, Ronald Reagan – by aiding, abetting, encouraging and covering up widespread human rights crimes in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua as well as Guatemala – bears greater responsibility for Central America’s horrors than does Rios Montt in his bloody 17-month rule. Reagan supported Guatemala’s brutal repression both before and after Rios Montt held power, as well as during.
Despite that history, more honors have been bestowed on Reagan than any recent president. Americans have allowed the naming of scores of government facilities in Reagan’s honor, including Washington National Airport where Reagan’s name elbowed aside that of George Washington, who led the War of Independence, oversaw the drafting of the U.S. Constitution and served as the nation’s first president.
So, as America’s former reputation as a beacon for human rights becomes a bad joke to the rest of the world, it is unthinkable within the U.S. political/media structure that Reagan would get posthumously criticized for the barbarity that he promoted. No one of importance would dare suggest that his name be stripped from National Airport and his statue removed from near the airport entrance.
But the evidence is overwhelming that the 40th president of the United States was guilty as an accessory to genocide and a wide range of other war crimes, including torture, rape, terrorism and narcotics trafficking. [See Robert Parry's Lost History.]Quite a long, descriptive history at this link.