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Former US-Backed Guatemalan Dictator Efraín Ríos Montt Dies

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On April 1, Efraín Ríos Montt died of a heart attack, joining a long list of dictators who did not pay for their crimes.

By ESENDOM

Convicted by a court in 2013 for carrying out a genocide against the Ixil people in Guatemala during the 1980s, former right wing dictator Efraín Ríos Montt (1926 –2018), who died on April’s Fools Day, was a close ally of the United States. His conviction was later annulled by the country's Constitutional Court. 

Like many other Latin American dictators during the Cold War, Efraín Ríos Montt graduated from the School of the Americas, where he received military training. A 2012 report from the School of the Americas Watch connects his military training with his future role as authoritarian ruler in Guatemala:

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.

How Social Media Reacted to the Death of Efraín Ríos Montt

Twitter and Instagram documented some immediate reactions to his death at the age of 91 and while facing prosecution in a special trial due to his medical ailments. The following reactions from social media users reflect the demands for justice in a country where impunity prevails. It also reflects that the legacy of the Guatemalan Civil War, revolutionary upheavals and counter-revolutions  (1960-1996) are still present to this day.

Celebrations sprung up in Guatemala after the death of Efraín Ríos Montt.

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The streets were filled with joy to bid farewell to a man who embodied death while alive.

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The love ones of all of those who bore the brunt of his repressive regime still carry their pain and sorrow to this day.

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During his dictatorial regime, Efraín Ríos Montt murdered 10,000 Guatemalan citizens most of them indigenous people and erased from the map 448 villages.

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In 2013, a court in Guatemala found Efraín Ríos Montt guilty of genocide.

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The 2013 trial sentenced Efraín Ríos Montt to 80 years in prison and set a precedent in Latin American and beyond.

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His crimes are a well documented archive of terror.

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Guatemalans and the world at large will always remember the victims of Efraín Ríos Montt's brutal regime by demanding justice.