13 May 2013.
From A World to Win News Service:
On 10 May, U.S.-backed strongman General Efrain Rios Montt, president of Guatemala for 17 months in 1982-1983, was convicted and sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the slaughter of 1,771 Mayan Ixil people. Over several weeks of the trial, 100 survivors bravely gave bone-chilling testimony about the killings. Rios Montt's short rule was one of the bloodiest chapters in the 36 years of civil war and the various forms of butchery (rape, bullets to the head in front of family members, ripping the hearts out of small children, burning people alive) that killed 200,000 indigenous people.
The guilty verdict was greeted with applause and overflowing emotion by the people who packed the courtroom. Among them were survivors who fearlessly persisted through decades to bring these crimes to trial and testified to the brutal and inhuman violence inflicted on the local population in the country's northwest Ixil highlands. It is thought that Rios Montt's victims number in the tens of thousands, but the precision in the number 1,771 victims is because the prosecutors have the names of each of these victims. The bones of most of them have also been unearthed from mass graves.
The case was unique in that it was the first time a former head of state has been tried in the national court in the country where the crimes were committed instead of by an international tribunal.
After the sentencing, an unexpected move occurred when the judge instructed prosecutors to launch an immediate investigation of "all others" connected to the crimes. A former military mechanic testified that ''Major Tito Arias'' ordered soldiers to loot and burn a village. In 2000, Guatemala's current president Otto Perez Molina inadvertently revealed to a Guatemalan newspaper that he was ''Major Tito Arias''. This admission now places Perez Molina among the ''all others'' implicated. Despite his temporary legal immunity as president, his victims say they will persist in demanding the opening of a criminal investigation. He may in the future face charges along with other top military officials.
Right after the Rios Montt trial, a CNN journalist confronted Perez Molina with his role in the massacres. He initially refused to answer but, in an effort to justify his acts, said the women, children and complete families aided and were the support base for the guerillas.
The American freelance investigative journalist Alan Nairn conducted a filmed interview with "Major Tito Arias", then a field commander and head of intelligence under the Rios Montt regime, in September 1982. In the footage the commander explains how the fight against the insurgency depended on military helicopters and machine guns received from the U.S. and mortars and ammunition from Israel.
The following is from Nairn's 1982 film interview with Perez Molina, alias Major Tito Arias, conducted in the Ixil zone in the area surrounding the town of Nebaj.
Allan Nairn: The United States is considering giving military help here in the form of helicopters. What is the importance of helicopters for all of you?
Perez Molina: A helicopter is an apparatus that's become of great importance not only here in Guatemala but also in other countries where they’ve had problems of a counterinsurgency.
AN: Like in Vietnam?
PM: In Vietnam, for example, the helicopter was an apparatus that was used a lot.
AN: Can you also use it in combat?
PM: Yes, of course. The helicopters that are military types, they are equipped to support operations in the field. They have machine guns and rocket launchers.
AN: What type of mortars are you guys using?
PM: There’s various types of mortars. We have small mortars and the mortars Tampella.
PM: Yes, it's a mortar that's 60 millimetres.
AN: Is it very powerful? Does it have a lot of force to destroy things?
PM: Yes, it's a weapon that's very effective. It's very useful, and it has a very good result in our operation in defence of the country.
AN: Is it against a person or...?
PM: Yes, it's an anti-personnel weapon.
AN: Do you have one here?
PM: It's light and easy to transport, as well.
AN: So, it's very light, and you can use it with your hand.
PM: Exactly, with the hand.
AN: Where did you get them?
PM: These, we got from Israel.
AN: And where do you get the ammunition?
PM: That's also from Israel.
From the same film, Nairn's interview with a soldier speaking dispassionately:
Allan Nairn: And how many did you kill?
Guatemalan soldier: We killed the majority. There is nothing else to do than kill them.
AN: So you killed them at once?
GS: Yes. If they do not want to do the right things, there is nothing more to do than bomb the houses.
AN: Bomb? With what?
GS: Well, with grenades or collective bombs.
AN: What is a collective bomb?
GS: They are like cannons.
AN: Do you use helicopters?
AN: What is the largest amount of people you have killed at once?
GS: Well, really, in Solola, around 500 people.
AN: And how do they react when you arrive?
AN: The people from the small villages.
GS: When the army arrives, they flee from their houses. And so, as they flee to the mountains, the army is forced to kill them.
AN: And in which small village did the army do that kind of thing?
GS: That happened a lot of times.
AN: Specifically, could you give me some examples where these things happened?
GS: In Salquil, Sumal Chiquito, Sumal Grande, Acul.
In the film the soldier explained that often they would kill about a third of a town's population. Another third they would capture and forcibly resettle in army camps. And the rest would flee into the mountains where the military would pursue them, dropping U.S. 50-kilogram bombs and firing U.S.-supplied heavy-caliber machine-guns from American Huey and Bell helicopters.
Reagan's government gave Rios Montt $10.5 million worth of helicopters, $3.2 million in military trucks and Jeeps, $36 million worth of tanks and $2 million for the covert program ''Operation Ashes'' a scorched-earth campaign run by G-2, the Intelligence Section of the Guatemalan Army, to annihilate the support base of guerrillas fighting for their land. Taking further Judge Barrios' court instruction to investigate ''all others'' connected, you could say that Ronald Reagan fits in that category. He was an accessory to this genocide. He aided, abetted, covered up and encouraged it before, during and after Rios Montt was president of Guatemala. Reagan was an even bigger criminal as he committed these same crimes in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, to mention only some of his crimes in the Americas alone.
In 1954 the CIA toppled the government of Jacobo Arbenz. The United Fruit Company, an American corporation that was one of the biggest landholders in Guatemala at the time, lobbied the CIA to remove Arbenz from power because he was giving fallow land to the peasants. The U.S. claimed he was a threaten to the security of the Western hemisphere. Only the year before, the CIA had ousted Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh. Since then Guatemala has been ruled by a long succession of mainly military regimes.
Partners in crime!