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The Genocide Trial of General Efrain Rios Montt Has Just Been Suspended: ................................................................................ 2 Genocide Trial of Former Dictator Ríos Montt Suspended After Intervention by Guatemalan President........................................ 6 Allan Nairn Exposes Role of U.S. and New Guatemalan President in Indigenous Massacres ....................................................... 11 A Crossing in the Cuchumatanes ................................................................................................................................................... 24 General Perez Molina is Tito ......................................................................................................................................................... 25 On the Margins of the Law -- But Inside the Palace ...................................................................................................................... 26 Guatemala: The decisive moment has arrived ............................................................................................................................... 27 The Guatemala Genocide Case: Testimony Notes Regarding Rios Montt ..................................................................................... 28 A Formal Legal Mandate for a Criminal Investigation of Guatemala's Current President, Perez Molina ...................................... 39 Ríos Montt Guilty of Genocide: Are Guatemalan President Pérez Molina, U.S. Officials Next? .................................................. 40 Additional Evidence on Perez Molina ........................................................................................................................................... 49 Still Alive ...................................................................................................................................................................................... 50 Follow Guatemala's Lead: Convene a Genocide Case Grand Jury ................................................................................................ 51 Allan Nairn: After Ríos Montt Verdict, Time for U.S. to Account for Its Role in Guatemalan Genocide ..................................... 53
The Genocide Trial of General Efrain Rios Montt Has Just Been Suspended: A firsthand behind-the-scenes account of how Guatemala's current President and threats of violence killed the case Allan Nairn Guatemala City Thursday, April 18, 2013 For a while it looked like Guatemala was about to deliver justice. But the genocide case against General Efrain Rios Montt has just been suspended, hours before a criminal court was poised to deliver a verdict. The last-second decision to kill the case was technically taken by an appeals court. But behind the decision stands secret intervention by Guatemala's current president and death threats delivered to judges and prosecutors by associates of Guatemala's army. Many dozens of Mayan massacre survivors risked their lives to testify. But now the court record they bravely created has been erased from above. The following account of some of my personal knowledge of the case was written several days ago. I was asked to keep it private until a trial verdict had been reached: "It would be mistaken to think that this case redounds to the credit of Guatemala's rulers. It was forced upon them from below. The last thing they want is justice. But they agreed to swallow a partial dose because political forces were such that they had to, and because they thought that they could get away with sacrificing Rios Montt to save their own skins. I was called to testify in the Rios Montt case, was listed by the court as a 'qualified witness,' and was tentatively scheduled to testify on Monday, April 15. But at the last minute I was kept off the stand 'in order to avoid a confrontation with the [Guatemalan] executive.' What that meant, I was given to understand, was that Gen. Otto Perez Molina, Guatemala's president, would shut down the case if I took the stand because my testimony could implicate him. Beyond that, there was fear, concretely stated, that my taking the stand could lead to violence since given my past statements and writings I would implicate the 'institutional army.'
The bargain under which Perez Molina and the country's elite had let the case go forward was that it would only touch Rios Montt and his codefendant, Gen. Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez. The rest of the army would be spared, and likewise Perez Molina. On that basis, Perez Molina, it was understood, would refrain from killing the Rios Montt trial case, and still more importantly would keep the old officer corps from killing prosecutors and witnesses, as well as hold off any hit squads that might be mounted by the the oligarchs of CACIF (the Chambers of Agriculture, Commerce, Industry and Finance). (Perez Molina has de facto power to kill the case via secret intervention with the Constitutional and other courts.) This understanding was seen as vital to the survival of both the case and those involved in it. Army associates had already threatened the family of one of the lead prosecutors, and halfway through the trial a death threat had been delivered to one of the three presiding judges. In the case of one of those threatened a man had offered him a bribe of one million US dollars as well as technical assistance with offshore accounts and laundering the funds. All the lawyer had to do was to agree to stop the Rios Montt case. When that didn't work, the angle changed: the man put a pistol on the table and stated that he knew where to find the lawyer's children. But so far no trial people had actually been killed. Though things were tense, the bargain was holding. But to the shock of many and to world headlines in a press that had long under- and mis- reported Guatemala's terror, everything changed on April 5 when Hugo Ramiro Leonardo Reyes, a former army mechanic, testified by video from hiding that Perez Molina had ordered atrocities. Testifying with his face half-covered by a baseball cap he recounted murders by Rios Montt's army and then unexpectedly added that one of the main perpetrators has been Perez Molina who he said had ordered executions and the destruction of villages. This had occurred, he testified, during the massacres around Nebaj when Perez Molina was serving there as Rios Montt's field commander in 1982-83. As it happened, I had also been there at that time and had encountered Perez Molina who was then living under the code name Major Tito Arias. I had interviewed him on film several times. On one occasion we stood over the bodies of four captured guerrillas he had interrogated. Out of his earshot, Perez Molina's subordinates told me how, acting under orders, they routinely captured, tortured, and staged multiple executions of civilians.
The trial witness's broaching of Perez Molina's past evidently angered the President. He publicly denounced the witness and had him investigated He then summoned the Attorney General. The word went forth that if the trial case mentioned Perez Molina again, all previous understandings would be suspended. Canceling the Rios Montt case would be the least of their worries: there would be hell to pay. The case went forward as originally agreed with Perez Molina. My testimony was cancelled, and the court record was kept clear of any additional evidence that could have further implicated the President. Under Guatemalan law, a sitting President cannot be indicted. Perez Molina's term ends in 2016. This is one small but revealing aspect of the case. The massacre story is not yet over." After the above private account was written, Guatemala's army and oligarchy rallied. They started to feel that they had no political need to sacrifice Rios Montt. As Perez Molina heard from the elite, his and Rios Montt's interests converged. On April 16 Perez Molina said publicly that the case was a threat to peace. On April 18, today, the Rios Montt genocide case was suspended. (Regarding Background Sources: For some of my filmed interviews with Perez Molina see the documentary Skoop! directed by Mikael Wahlforss. EPIDEM, Scandinavian television, 1983. Long excerpts from it, under the title Titulares de Hoy, are available on the website of Jean-Marie Simon who was my colleague on the film. Also see her photographs and narrative in her book Guatemala: Eternal Spring, Eternal Tyranny, W.W. Norton, 1988. For a detailed contemporaneous report of the Rios Montt massacres see my piece in the April 11, 1983 The New Republic, "The Guns of Guatemala: The merciless mission of Rios Montt's army." The piece quotes some of Perez Molina's army subordinates and briefly mentions him as "Major Tito." At the time I wrote it and worked on the film I did not know his real name. YouTube excerpts from the film went viral in Guatemala during Perez Molina's 2011 presidential campaign. During the campaign Perez Molina was evasive about whether he really was "Major Tito," though it later surfaced that he had admitted it years before but had then attempted to obscure that admission. Also see my piece in the April 17, 1995 The Nation, "C.I.A. Death Squad: Americans have been directly involved in Guatemalan Army killings." The piece reports on US sponsorship of the G-2, the Guatemalan military intelligence unit which picked targets for assassination and disappearance and often did its own killings and torture. The
piece names Perez Molina as one of "three of the recent G-2 chiefs [who] have been paid by the C.I.A., according to U.S. and Guatemalan intelligence sources." The piece adds that then-Colonel "Perez Molina, who now runs the Presidential General Staff and oversees the Archivo, was in charge in 1994, when according to the Archbishop's human rights office, there was evidence of General Staff involvement in the assassination of Judge Edgar Ramiro Elias Ogaldez." Likewise, at the time of The Nation article I still did not know that Perez Molina was Tito. For one aspect of the US role in supporting Rios Montt see my Washington Post piece: "Despite Ban, U.S. Captain Trains Guatemalan Military," October 21, 1982, page 1. After the 1983 New Republic piece the Guatemalan army sent an emissary who invited me to lunch at a fancy hotel and politely told me that I would be killed unless I retracted the article. The army murdered Guatemalans all the time, but for a US journalist the threat rang hollow. The man who delivered the threat later became an excellent source of information.)
Genocide Trial of Former Dictator Ríos Montt Suspended After Intervention by Guatemalan President
Friday, April 19, 2013 _____________________________________________________________________ A historic trial against former U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity came to an abrupt end Thursday when an appeals court suspended the trial before a criminal court was scheduled to reach a verdict. Ríos Montt on was charged in connection with the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after he seized power in 1982. His 17month rule is seen as one of the bloodiest chapters in Guatemala’s decades-long campaign against Maya indigenous people, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. Thursday’s decision is seen as a major blow to indigenous victims. Investigative journalist Allan Nairn reported last night Guatemalan army associates had threatened the lives of case judges and prosecutors and that the case had been annulled after intervention by Guatemala’s president, General Otto Pérez Molina. Ríos Montt was the first head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide. Nairn flew to Guatemala last week after he was called to testify in Ríos Montt’s trial. He was listed by the court as a "qualified witness" and was tentatively scheduled to testify on Monday. But at the last minute, Nairn was kept off the stand "in order," he was told, "to avoid a confrontation" with the president, General Pérez Molina, and for fear that if he took the stand, military elements might respond with violence. In the 1980s, Nairn extensively documented broad army responsibility for the massacres and was prepared to present evidence that personally implicated Pérez Molina, who was field commander during the very Mayan Ixil region massacres for which the exdictator, Ríos Montt, had been charged with genocide. _____________________________________________________________________
Juan Gonzalez: An historic trial against former U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity came to an abrupt end Thursday when an appeals court suspended the trial before a criminal court was scheduled to reach a verdict. Investigative journalist Allan Nairn reported last
night Guatemalan army associates had threatened the lives of case judges and prosecutors and that the case had been annulled after intervention by Guatemala’s president, General Otto Pérez Molina. Ríos Montt was the first head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide. He was charged in connection with the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after he seized power in 1982. His 17-month rule is seen as one of the bloodiest chapters in Guatemala’s decades-long campaign against Maya indigenous people, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. On Thursday, survivors of the genocide attempted to approach Ríos Montt inside the courtroom, screaming "Murderer!" Amy Goodman: The trial took a surprising turn last week when Guatemala’s current president, General Otto Pérez Molina, was directly accused of ordering executions. A former military mechanic named Hugo Reyes told the court that President Pérez, then serving as an army major and using the name Tito Arias, ordered soldiers to burn and pillage a Mayan Ixil area in the 1980s. We’re going right now to investigative journalist Allan Nairn. He flew to Guatemala City last week after we—he was called to testify in Ríos Montt’s trial. He was listed by the court as a "qualified witness" and was tentatively scheduled to testify Monday. But at the last minute he was kept off the stand "in order," he was told, "to avoid a confrontation" with the president, General Pérez Molina, and for fear that if he took the stand, military elements might respond with violence. In the ’80s, Allan Nairn had extensively documented broad army responsibility for the massacres and was prepared to present evidence that personally implicated Pérez Molina, who was field commander during the very Maya Ixil region massacres for which the ex-dictator, General Ríos Montt, has been charged with genocide. Allan Nairn, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about the significance of the latest developments, the annulling of the trial of Ríos Montt? Allan Nairn: Well, this trial was a breakthrough, not just for Guatemala, but for the world. It was the first time that any nation had been able to use its domestic criminal courts to try a former head of state for genocide. Dozens upon dozens of Mayan survivors of the massacres risked their lives to come and testify. A massive evidentiary record was put together, in my view, to proving a case of genocide against General Ríos Montt and his co-defendant, his former intelligence chief. A verdict was just hours away. A verdict could have come today in the trial, but yesterday it was all annulled after intervention by General Pérez Molina, the current president, and the Guatemalan military and oligarchy killed it.
Juan Gonzalez: And, Allan, can you talk about what you learned in terms of the threats to the judges and—the judge and the prosecutor and what’s been their reaction, even though they’ve been sitting here now for several weeks in this trial? Allan Nairn: In one case, one of—one of the lawyers involved in pushing the case forward was approached by a man who offered him a million dollars if he would kill the case against Ríos Montt, a million U.S. dollars. He also said he would help him launder the money, set up offshore bank accounts. The lawyer rejected that. The man then took out a pistol, put the pistol on the table and said, "I know where your children are." Another was approached on the street with a—with a direct death threat. Despite those threats, though, the case went forward. And now, after [inaudible] to kill the case, the attorney general of Guatemala, the trial judge presiding in the case are both vowing to try to go forward with it. They’re vowing to continue with the court hearing just a couple hours from now, even though they’ve been told they can’t. So a direct political confrontation has been set. Amy Goodman: We’re talking to investigative journalist Allan Nairn. He’s in Guatemala City. We’re reaching him by Democracy Now! video stream. Listen carefully. It’s a little difficult to make out what he is saying. But, Allan, we wanted to ask about why your testimony was canceled before the overall annulment of the trial yesterday. Why was your testimony considered so dangerous? Allan Nairn: I was given to understand that if I were called to the stand, two things would happen. First, President Pérez Molina would intervene to shut down the trial. And secondly, there could be violence, particularly from retired military. The reason was that, as you mentioned in the introduction, one witness had already implicated Pérez Molina in the massacres. He was a field commander at that time. After that testimony, Pérez Molina called in the attorney general, and the word went out that if he was mentioned again in the trial, if his name came up once, he would immediately shut it down. So—and they knew that I could implicate Pérez Molina further, because I had met him in the highlands during the massacres when he was operating under a code name. And I interviewed soldiers under his command who described how, under orders, they executed and tortured civilians. Juan Gonzalez: And, Allan, in terms of the—of Pérez Molina himself, you have a situation here, obviously, after the Central America accords, when some sort of relative peace came to the region. How did Pérez Molina rise to power, being one of the underlings of Ríos Montt and the military that visited such carnage and such destruction on the people of Guatemala? Allan Nairn: Well, the reason the military was doing those massacres in the first place was to preserve a political and economic system under which there was 80 percent attrition in the area around Nebaj, which is where Pérez Molina was stationed and where, at the same time, there were world-class rich people running the plantations, the banks, the industries. Those massacres were basically successful in
crushing the population and crushing any resistance and in maintaining that system. And within that system, Pérez Molina was able to rise. He became a colonel. He became the head of the G-2 military intelligence service during a time [inaudible]— Amy Goodman: We’re having a little trouble hearing, Allan. Allan Nairn: —placed on the CIA payroll. At one point, an office under his control was implicated in the—at one point, an office under Pérez Molina’s control was implicated in the assassination of a judge. He rose to general, and he was able to become president. That’s the—that’s the Guatemalan system. Yet, remarkably, even given that system, this movement from below of massacre survivors who refused to give up, who insisted on trying to bring generals to justice, was able to generate this trial, aided by people of integrity who had found their way into the Guatemalan judiciary and prosecution system, and a trial was begun. They heard massive amounts of evidence. I believe it was on the verge of giving a verdict, but then, at the last minute, Pérez Molina and the powers that be intervened. Amy Goodman: Very quickly, Allan, we just have less than a minute, the attorney general is a woman. The judge is a woman. They are saying they’re going to move forward with this case, although it has been anulled, with a trial today? And what about protests outside? Allan Nairn: Well, protests are planned outside the court. The judge, Yassmin Barrios, and the attorney general, Claudia Paz y Paz, both say they’re going to defy this order to kill the case, which is extraordinary. You know, this indicates, I think, that Guatemala has reached a higher level of civilization than the United States has. Even though this case was killed in the end, it’s inconceivable that in the United States a U.S. attorney, say, could indict a former U.S. president, could indict a George W. Bush for what he did in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, or could indict an Obama, and that this could proceed to trial and that massive amounts of evidence could be heard. That’s not yet conceivable in the American legal system, but it happened here in Guatemala, and it almost succeeded. It came very close. And now there’s going to be a popular reaction to try to continue that fight for law enforcement and justice. Amy Goodman: And is it possible the trial will continue? Allan Nairn: Excuse me? Amy Goodman: Is it possible the trial will continue? Allan Nairn: Well, I guess it’s possible, if Judge—Judge Barrios and the prosecutors are physically allowed into the courtroom, that they could try to have the trial. But the powers that be above them have now banned it, have now prohibited it. Ríos Montt and his lawyers may not show up. I don’t know what will happen. This is a real political crisis for Guatemala.
Amy Goodman: Investigative journalist Allan Nairn, speaking to us from Guatemala City. When we come back, we sat down with Allan before he left to go through the history of this trial and also play the videotape of his interview with the current president back more than 20 years ago when he was a major under Ríos Montt, on trial for genocide. Stay with us. http://www.democracynow.org/ http://www.democracynow.org/2013/4/19/genocide_trial_of_former_dictator_ros
Allan Nairn Exposes Role of U.S. and New Guatemalan President in Indigenous Massacres
Friday, April 19, 2013 _____________________________________________________________________ In 1982, investigative journalist Allan Nairn interviewed a Guatemalan general named "Tito" on camera during the height of the indigenous massacres. It turns out the man was actually Otto Pérez Molina, the current Guatemalan president. We air the original interview footage and speak to Nairn about the U.S. role backing the Guatemalan dictatorship. Last week, Nairn flew to Guatemala where he had been scheduled to testify in the trial of former U.S.-backed dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, the first head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide. Ríos Montt was charged in connection with the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after he seized power in 1982. His 17-month rule is seen as one of the bloodiest chapters in Guatemala’s decades-long campaign against Maya indigenous people, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. The trial took a surprising turn last week when Guatemala President Gen. Otto Pérez Molina was directly accused of ordering executions. A former military mechanic named Hugo Reyes told the court that Pérez Molina, then serving as an army major and using the name Tito Arias, ordered soldiers to burn and pillage a Maya Ixil area in the 1980s. Click here to hear our live update of the trial from Nairn in Guatemala City. _____________________________________________________________________ Amy Goodman: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. We continue our coverage of the historic trial of former U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Allan Nairn joined us in our studio last week before he flew to Guatemala. I began by asking him to describe just who Ríos Montt is. Allan Nairn: Ríos Montt was the dictator of Guatemala during 1982, '83. He seized power in a military coup. He was trained in the U.S. He had served in Washington as head of the Inter-American Defense College. And while he was president, he was embraced by Ronald Reagan as a man of great integrity, someone totally devoted to democracy. And he killed many tens of thousands of civilians, particularly in the
Mayan northwest highlands. In this particular trial, he is being charged with 1,771 specific murders in the area of the Ixil Mayans. These charges are being brought because the prosecutors have the names of each of these victims. They've been able to dig up the bones of most of them. Amy Goodman: Talk about how this campaign, this slaughter, was carried out and how it links to, well, the current government in Guatemala today. Allan Nairn: The army swept through the northwest highlands. And according to soldiers who I interviewed at the time, as they were carrying out the sweeps, they would go into villages, surround them, pull people out of their homes, line them up, execute them. A forensic witness testified in the trial that 80 percent of the remains they’ve recovered had gunshot wounds to the head. Witnesses have—witnesses and survivors have described Ríos Montt’s troops beheading people. One talked about an old woman who was beheaded, and then they kicked her head around the floor. They ripped the hearts out of children as their bodies were still warm, and they piled them on a table for their parents to see. The soldiers I interviewed would describe their interrogation techniques, which they had been taught at the army general staff. And they said they would ask people, "Who in the town are the guerrillas?" And if the people would respond, "We don’t know," then they would strangle them to death. These sweeps were intense. The soldiers said that often they would kill about a third of a town’s population. Another third they would capture and resettle in army camps. And the rest would flee into the mountains. There, in the mountains, the military would pursue them using U.S.-supplied helicopters, U.S.- and Israeli-supplied planes. They would drop U.S. 50-kilogram bombs on them, and they would machine-gun them from U.S. Huey and Bell helicopters, using U.S.-supplied heavy-caliber machine guns. Amy Goodman: Let’s turn to a clip of you interviewing a soldier in the highlands. This is from a Finnish documentary—is that right? And when was this done? When were you talking to soldiers there? Allan Nairn: This was in September of 1982 in the Ixil zone in the area surrounding the town of Nebaj. Amy Goodman: Let’s go to a clip of this interview. Guatemalan Soldier: [translated] This is how we are successful. And also, if we have already interrogated them, the only thing we can do is kill them. Allan Nairn: [translated] And how many did you kill? Guatemalan Soldier: [translated] We killed the majority. There is nothing else to do than kill them. Allan Nairn: [translated] So you killed them at once?
Guatemalan Soldier: [translated] Yes. If they do not want to do the right things, there is nothing more to do than bomb the houses. Allan Nairn: [translated] Bomb? With what? Guatemalan Soldier: [translated] Well, with grenades or collective bombs. Allan Nairn: [translated] What is a collective bomb? Guatemalan Soldier: [translated] They are like cannons. Allan Nairn: [translated] Do you use helicopters? Guatemalan Soldier: [translated] Yes. Allan Nairn: [translated] What is the largest amount of people you have killed at once? Guatemalan Soldier: [translated] Well, really, in Sololá, around 500 people. Allan Nairn: [translated] And how do they react when you arrive? Guatemalan Soldier: [translated] Who? Allan Nairn: [translated] The people from the small villages. Guatemalan Soldier: [translated] When the army arrives, they flee from their houses. And so, as they flee to the mountains, the army is forced to kill them. Allan Nairn: [translated] And in which small village did the army do that kind of thing? Guatemalan Soldier: [translated] That happened a lot of times. Allan Nairn: [translated] Specifically, could you give me some examples where these things happened? Guatemalan Soldier: [translated] In Salquil, Sumal Chiquito, Sumal Grande, Acul. Amy Goodman: When did you interview this soldier, Allan? Allan Nairn: This was in September of ’82. Amy Goodman: What were you doing there? Allan Nairn: Making a documentary for Scandinavian television. Amy Goodman: So you have soldiers talking about killing civilians, the brutal interrogations that they were engaged in. Why would they be telling you this? You’re a journalist. They’re talking about crimes they’re committing.
Allan Nairn: Well, because this is their everyday life. They do this all the time. They do it under orders from the top of the chain of command, at that time Ríos Montt. And they had hardly ever seen journalists at that time. It was very rare for an outside journalist or even a local journalist to go into that area. Amy Goodman: So let’s take this to the current day, to the president of Guatemala today, because at the same time you were interviewing these soldiers, you interviewed the Guatemalan president—at least the Guatemalan president today in 2013. Allan Nairn: Yes, the senior officer, the commander in Nebaj, was a man who used the code name "Mayor Tito," Major Tito. It turns out that that man’s real name was Otto Pérez Molina. Otto Pérez Molina later ascended to general, and today he is the president of Guatemala. So he is the one who was the local implementer of the program of genocide which Ríos Montt is accused of carrying out. Amy Goodman: This is a huge charge. I mean, right now, it’s an historic trial when it’s 25 years after a past president is now being charged. Let’s go to a clip of Otto Pérez Molina, the current president of Guatemala, but this is 1982 in the heartland area of Quiché in northwest Guatemala, northwest of Guatemala City. In this video clip, Otto Pérez Molina is seen reading from political literature found on one of the bodies. This is your interview with him. Mayor Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] "The poor artisan fights alongside the worker. The poor peasant fights alongside the worker. The wealth is produced by us, the poor. The army takes the poor peasants. Together, we have an invincible force. All the families are with the guerrilla, the guerrilla army of the poor, toward final victory forever." These are the different fronts that they have. Allan Nairn: [translated] So here they are saying that the army killed some people. Mayor Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] Exactly. Amy Goodman: I mean, this is astounding. This is the current president of Guatemala standing over these bodies. Tell us more. Allan Nairn: Well, as one of the soldiers says in the sound in the background, the— Pérez Molina interrogated these men. And soon after, they were—they were dead. And one soldier told me off camera that in fact after Pérez Molina interrogated them, they finished them off. Amy Goodman: This man, Pérez Molina, the president, actually was going by a code name at the time. When was it clear that this is Pérez Molina? Though we have a very clear shot of him. Allan Nairn: For a long time, Pérez Molina was trying to obscure his past and apparently hide the fact that he played this role in a supervisory position during the highland massacres. During the Guatemalan presidential campaign, which Pérez
Molina eventually won, about two years ago, I got calls while I was in Asia from the Guatemalan press, from The Wall Street Journal, asking whether I could vouch for the fact that Mayor Tito, the man in the video who I encountered in the northwest highlands in the midst of the massacres—whether I could vouch for the fact that Mayor Tito was in fact General Otto Pérez Molina, the presidential candidate. And I said that I couldn’t, just from looking at the current videos. You know, people can change a lot visually over 30 years, so I said I couldn’t be sure. It turns out that—and during the campaign, when reporters would ask the Pérez Molina campaign, "Is Pérez Molina Mayor Tito?" they would dodge the question. They would evade. They were running from it. It turns out, though, we just learned this week, that Pérez Molina had admitted back in 2000 that he was Mayor Tito. But then, apparently afterward, he thought better of it and was trying to bury it. And now, this is potentially trouble for him. He’s currently president, and so, under Guatemalan law, he enjoys immunity. But once he leaves the presidency, he could, in theory, be subject to prosecution, just as Ríos Montt is now being prosecuted. Amy Goodman: That could be a serious motivation for him declaring himself president for life. Allan Nairn: Well, Ríos Montt seized power by a coup, but one of the important facts about the situation now is that the military men don’t have the power that they used to. The fact that this trial is happening is an indication of that. This trial is happening because the survivors refused to give up. They persisted—the survivors have been working on this for decades, pushing to bring Ríos Montt and the other generals to justice. They refused to give up. They got support from international—some international human rights lawyers. And within the Guatemalan justice system, there were a few people of integrity who ascended to positions of some authority within the prosecutorial system, within the judiciary. And so, we now have this near-political miracle of a country bringing to trial its former dictator for genocide, while the president of the country, who was implicated in those killings, sits by. Amy Goodman: Allan, this video that we have of you interviewing Pérez Molina— again, as you said, he admitted to the Guatemalan newspaper, Prensa Libre, in 2000 that he used the nickname Tito—is quite astounding. So let’s go to another clip, where you’re talking to him about the kind of support that he wants. Allan Nairn: [translated] The United States is considering giving military help here in the form of helicopters. What is the importance of helicopters for all of you? Mayor Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] 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. Allan Nairn: [translated] Like in Vietnam?
Mayor Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] In Vietnam, for example, the helicopter was an apparatus that was used a lot. Allan Nairn: [translated] Can you also use it in combat? Mayor Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] 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. Allan Nairn: [translated] What type of mortars are you guys using? Mayor Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] There’s various types of mortars. We have small mortars and the mortars Tampella. Allan Nairn: Tampella. Mayor Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] Yes, it’s a mortar that’s 60 millimeters. Allan Nairn: [translated] Is it very powerful? Does it have a lot of force to destroy things? Mayor Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] Yes, it’s a weapon that’s very effective. It’s very useful, and it has a very good result in our operation in defense of the country. Allan Nairn: [translated] Is it against a person or...? Mayor Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] Yes, it’s an anti-personnel weapon. Allan Nairn: [translated] Do you have one here? Mayor Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] It’s light and easy to transport, as well. Allan Nairn: [translated] So, it’s very light, and you can use it with your hand. Mayor Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] Exactly, with the hand. Allan Nairn: [translated] Where did you get them? Mayor Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] These, we got from Israel. Allan Nairn: [translated] And where do you get the ammunition? Mayor Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] That’s also from Israel. Amy Goodman: So, this is, again, the current president, Pérez Molina, of Guatemala, the general you met in the highlands in 1982, asking for more aid. Talk about the relationship between Guatemala then and the United States. Allan Nairn: Well, the U.S. was the sponsor of the Guatemalan army, as it had been for many decades, as the U.S. has and continues to sponsor dozens and dozens of repressive armies all over the world. In the case of Guatemala, if you go into the
military academy and you see the pictures of the past presidents of military academy, some of them are actually Americans. They’re actual American officers there who were openly running the Guatemalan military training. By the ’80s, when the Ríos Montt massacres were being carried out, the U.S. Congress was under the impression that they had successfully stopped U.S. military aid to Guatemala. But in fact it was continuing. The CIA had an extensive program of backing the G-2, the G-2, the military intelligence service, which selected the targets for assassination and disappearance. They even—they even built a headquarters for—a secret headquarters for the G-2 near the Guatemala City airport. They had American advisers working inside the headquarters. Out in the field, Guatemalan troops were receiving from the U.S. ammunition, weapons. And most importantly, the U.S., beginning under the Carter administration but continuing under Reagan and after, asked the Israelis to come in and fill the gap that was caused by congressional restrictions. So Israel was doing massive shipments of Galil automatic rifles and other weapons. And Pérez Molina, as you saw in the video, actually had one of his subordinates come over and show me an Israeli-made mortar. That mortar and the helicopters he was asking for from the U.S., those were the kind of weapons they would use to bomb villages and attack people as they were fleeing in the mountains. In listening to the testimony in the trial up to this moment, I was struck by the fact that almost every witness mentioned that they had been attacked from the air, that either their village had been bombed or strafed or that they were bombed or strafed as they were fleeing in the mountains. This testimony suggests that the use of this U.S. and Israeli aircraft and U.S. munitions against the civilians in the Ixil highlands was actually much more extensive than we understood at the time. Beyond that, beyond the material U.S. support, there’s the question of doctrine. Yesterday in the trial, the Ríos Montt defense called forward a general, a former commander of the G-2, as an expert witness on the defense side. And at the end of his testimony, the prosecution read to this general an excerpt from a Guatemalan military training document. And the document said it is often difficult for soldiers to accept the fact that they may be required to execute repressive actions against civilian women, children and sick people, but with proper training, they can be made to do so. So, the prosecutor asked the Ríos Montt general, "Well, General, what is your response to this document?" And the general responded by saying, "Well, that training document which we use is an almost literal translation of a U.S. training document." So this doctrine of killing civilians, even down to women, children and sick people, was, as the general testified, adopted from the U.S. Indeed, years before, the U.S. military attaché in Guatemala, Colonel John Webber, had said to Time magazine that the Guatemalan army was licensed to kill guerrillas and potential guerrillas. And, of course, the category of potential guerrillas can include anyone, including children. And the point of guerrilla civilians is actually very important to understanding this. Those bodies that Pérez Molina was standing over in Nebaj in 1982 in the film we saw, those were actually an exception to the rule, because the truth commission which
investigated the massacres in Guatemala found that 93 percent of the victims were civilians killed by the Guatemalan army. But there was also some combat going on between the army and guerrillas. And in that case, in the video we saw, the bodies Pérez Molina was standing over were guerrillas, guerrillas that the army had captured. And one of them in captivity had set off a hand grenade as a suicide act, but apparently, from what I saw and what the soldiers told me, apparently they survived the blast, and they were then turned over to Pérez Molina for interrogation. He interrogated them, and then, as we saw, they turned up dead. But in the vast majority of cases, they were civilians, completely unarmed people, who were targeted by Ríos Montt’s army for elimination. And I asked Ríos Montt about this practice on two different occasions, first in an interview with him two months after he seized power in 1982, and then later, years later, after he had been thrown out of power. And when I asked him in ’82 about the fact that so many civilians were being killed by the army, he said, "Look, for each one who is shooting, there are 10 who are standing behind him," meaning: Behind the guerrillas there are vast numbers of civilians. His senior aide and his spokesman, a man named Francisco Bianchi, who was sitting next to him at this interview, then expanded on the point. Bianchi said the guerrillas—well, the indigenous population— he called them "indios," which is a slur in Guatemalan Spanish— Amy Goodman: For Indians. Allan Nairn: Yes—were collaborating with the guerrilla, therefore it was necessary to kill Indians. "And people would say," Bianchi continued, "'Oh, you're massacring all these innocent Indians"—"innocent Indios," in his words. But Bianchi then said, "But, no, they are not innocent, because they had sold out to subversion." So this is the—this is the doctrine of killing civilians, and particularly Mayans, because the army saw them collectively as a group. They didn’t view them as individuals, but they saw them collectively as a group as sold out to subversion. And this was a doctrine that the U.S. supported. Amy Goodman: Journalist Allan Nairn. The interview we did was recorded last week just before he left for Guatemala to testify in the trial against the Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. But at the last minute, his testimony was canceled late yesterday. The trial was canceled. We’ll continue with the interview in a minute. Amy Goodman: The War and Peace Report, as we continue our coverage of the historic trial of former U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Allan Nairn joined us in our studio last week before he flew to Guatemala. His testimony was canceled. The trial was canceled last night. But I asked Allan to talk about how he managed to interview the Guatemalan dictator, Ríos Montt, two months after he seized power in the 1980s. Allan Nairn: Well, he was—he was giving press interviews. This was an interview in the palace. I was there with a couple of other reporters. Ríos Montt was very
outspoken. He would go on TV and say, "Today we are going to begin a merciless struggle. We are going to kill, but we are going to kill legally." That was his style, to speak directly. And it’s in great contrast to what he’s doing today. I mean, it’s very interesting from point of view of people who’ve survived these kind of generals who live on the blood of the people, not just in Guatemala but in Salvador, in East Timor, in Indonesia, in countless countries where the U.S. has backed this kind of terror. You have the spectacle now of this general, who once made poor people tremble at the sight of him, at the mention of him, now he’s hiding. In the trial, he refuses to talk. He will not defend himself. He’s like a common thug taken off the streets who invokes his Fifth Amendment—invokes his Fifth Amendment rights. But back then, when he had the power, when no one could challenge him, he would speak fairly openly. In fact, the second time I spoke to him, a number of years after, I asked Ríos Montt whether he thought that he should be executed, whether he should be tried and executed because of his own responsibility for the highland massacres, and he responded by jumping to his feet and shouting, "Yes! Put me on trial. Put me against the wall. But if you’re going to put me on trial, you have to try the Americans first, including Ronald Reagan." Amy Goodman: Allan Nairn, at the time in Guatemala, you not only were interviewing, well, now the current president, Pérez Molina, who was in the highlands at the time standing over dead bodies, but you were also talking to U.S. officials, and I want to go to this issue of U.S. involvement in what happened in Guatemala. Tell us about U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs Stephen Bosworth, a man you got to interview at the time during the Ríos Montt years. Allan Nairn: Well, Bosworth was, at the time, an important player in U.S. Central American policy. And he, along with Elliott Abrams, for example, attacked Amnesty International when Amnesty was trying to report on the assassinations of labor leaders and priests and peasant organizers and activists in the Mayan highlands. And he also was denying that the U.S. was giving military assistance to the Guatemalan army that was carrying out those crimes. Amy Goodman: Let’s turn to the interview you did with then U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs Stephen Bosworth. Stephen Bosworth: Well, I think the important factor is that there has been, over the last six months, evidence of significant improvement in the human rights situation in Guatemala. Since the coming into power of the Ríos Montt government, the level of violence in the country, politically inspired violence, particularly in the urban areas, has declined rather dramatically. That being said, however, I think it’s important also to note that the level of violence in the countryside continues at a level which is of concern to all. And while it is difficult, if not impossible, to attribute responsibility for that violence in each instance, it is clear that in the countryside the government does indeed need to make further progress in terms of improving its control over government troops.
Amy Goodman: You also, Allan Nairn, asked the then-U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs Stephen Bosworth precisely what was the U.S. military presence and role in Guatemala. This is how Bosworth responded. Stephen Bosworth: We have no military presence or role. We have, as a part of our diplomatic establishment, a defense attaché office and a military representative. But that is the same sort of representation that we have in virtually all other countries in the world. We do not have American trainers working with the Guatemalan army. We do not have American military personnel active in Guatemala in that—in that sort of area. Amy Goodman: There are no American trainers there? Stephen Bosworth: No. Allan Nairn: None performing the types of functions that go on in El Salvador, for instance? Stephen Bosworth: No, there are not. Amy Goodman: That was then-U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs Stephen Bosworth. Respond to what he said, and tell us who he later became, who he is today in the U.S. government. Allan Nairn: Well, first, just about everything that Bosworth said there was a lie. He said that the killings were down. In fact, they increased dramatically under Ríos Montt. He said, quite interestingly, that it was impossible to know and attribute responsibility for what was happening. Well, the Conference of Catholic Bishops had no difficulty knowing and attributing responsibility. They said that the killings have reached the extreme of genocide. They were saying this at the moment that the massacres were happening and at the moment that Bosworth was denying it. And they and the survivors and the human rights groups were all clearly blaming it on the army. And then, finally, he said that the army has to be careful to maintain control over its troops. Well, there was a very strict control. In fact, the officers in the field in the Ixil zone that I interviewed at the time said they were on a very short leash and that there were only three layers of command between themselves in the field and Ríos Montt. And, in fact, a few weeks earlier, there had been only two layers of command between themselves and Ríos Montt. Then, Bosworth went on to say that the U.S. was not giving any military assistance to Guatemala, but I guess it was a couple weeks after that interview when we went down to Guatemala, I met a U.S. Green Beret, Captain Jesse Garcia, who was training the Guatemalan military in combat techniques, including what he called how—in his words, "how to destroy towns." This was apart from the weapons and U.S. munitions that I mentioned before, apart from the CIA trainers who were working in the CIA-
built headquarters of the G-2, the military intelligence service that was doing the assassinations and disappearances. Amy Goodman: The G-2 being the Guatemalan G-2. Now, today Stephen Bosworth is the dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University. But before that, in 2009, well, he played a key role in the Obama administration. Allan Nairn: Yes, rather than being—you know, in what you might consider to be a normally functioning political system, if a high government official lied like that about matters of such grave, life-and-death importance and was involved in the supply of arms to terrorists, in this case the Guatemalan military, you would expect him at the minimum to be fired and disgraced, or maybe brought up on charges. But Bosworth was actually promoted. And under the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton chose him as the special envoy to North Korea. He’s been in the news a great deal in recent times because of his very prominent role there. Amy Goodman: In 1995, Allan Nairn was interviewed on Charlie Rose about his piece in The Nation called "CIA Death Squad," in which he described how Americans were directly involved in killings by the Guatemalan army. He was interviewed alongside Elliott Abrams, who challenged what he was saying. Abrams had served as assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs under President Reagan from 1981 to 1985. This clip begins with Elliott Abrams. Elliott Abrams: Wait a minute. We’re not here to refight the Cold War. We’re here to talk about, I thought, a specific case in which an allegation is being made that—of the husband of an American and, another case, an American citizen were killed, and there was a CIA connection with—allegedly with the person allegedly involved in it. Now, I’m happy to talk about that kind of thing. If Mr. Nairn thinks we should have been on the other side in Guatemala—that is, we should have been in favor of a guerrilla victory—I disagree with him. Allan Nairn: So you’re then admitting that you were on the side of the Guatemalan military. Elliott Abrams: I am admitting that it was the policy of the United States, under Democrats and Republicans, approved by Congress repeatedly, to oppose a communist guerrilla victory anywhere in Central America, including in Guatemala. Charlie Rose: Alright, well, I— Allan Nairn: A communist guerrilla victory. Charlie Rose: Yeah, I— Allan Nairn: Ninety-five percent of these victims are civilians—peasant organizers, human rights leaders— Charlie Rose: I am happy to invite both of you—
Allan Nairn: —priests—assassinated by the U.S.-backed Guatemalan army. Let’s look at reality here. In reality, we’re not talking about two murders, one colonel. We’re talking about more than 100,000 murders, an entire army, many of its top officers employees of the U.S. government. We’re talking about crimes, and we’re also talking about criminals, not just people like the Guatemalan colonels, but also the U.S. agents who have been working with them and the higher-level U.S. officials. I mean, I think you have to be—you have to apply uniform standards. President Bush once talked about putting Saddam Hussein on trial for crimes against humanity, Nuremberg-style tribunal. I think that’s a good idea. But if you’re serious, you have to be even-handed. If we look at a case like this, I think we have to talk—start talking about putting Guatemalan and U.S. officials on trial. I think someone like Mr. Abrams would be a fit—a subject for such a Nuremberg-style inquiry. But I agree with Mr. Abrams that Democrats would have to be in the dock with him. The Congress has been in on this. The Congress approved the sale of 16,000 M-16s to Guatemala. In ’87 and ’88— Charlie Rose: Alright, but hold on one second. I just—before—because the— Allan Nairn: They voted more military aid than the Republicans asked for. Charlie Rose: Again, I invite you and Elliott Abrams back to discuss what he did. But right now, you— Elliott Abrams: No, thanks, Charlie, but I won’t accept— Charlie Rose: Hold on one second. Go ahead. You want to repeat the question, of you want to be in the dock? Elliott Abrams: It is ludicrous. It is ludicrous to respond to that kind of stupidity. This guy thinks we were on the wrong side in the Cold War. Maybe he personally was on the wrong side. I am one of the many millions of Americans who thinks we were happy to win. Charlie Rose: Alright, I don’t— Allan Nairn: Mr. Abrams, you were on the wrong side in supporting the massacre of peasants and organizers, anyone who dared to speak, absolutely. Charlie Rose: What I want to do is I want to ask the following question. Allan Nairn: And that’s a crime. That’s a crime, Mr. Abrams, for which people should be tried. U.S. laws— Elliott Abrams: Why don’t you—yes, right, we’ll put all the American officials who won the Cold War in the dock. Amy Goodman: That was Elliott Abrams—he served as assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs under President Reagan from ’81 to ’85—
debating investigative journalist Allan Nairn on the Charlie Rose show. Actually, Congress member Robert Torricelli, then from New Jersey, before he became senator, was also in that discussion at another point. Allan, the significance of what Mr. Abrams was saying? He went on, Abrams, to deal with the Middle East. Allan Nairn: Yes. Well, he—when I said that he should be tried by a Nurembergstyle tribunal, he basically reacted by saying I was crazy, that this was a crazy idea that you could try U.S. officials for supplying weapons to armies that kill civilians. But people also thought that it was crazy that Ríos Montt could face justice in Guatemala. But after decades of work by the survivors of his Mayan highland massacres, today, as we speak, Ríos Montt is sitting in the dock. Amy Goodman: Award-winning journalist Allan Nairn, speaking last week before he flew to Guatemala. On Thursday, a landmark genocide trial against former Guatemalan dictator Ríos Montt was suspended after the trial threatened to implicate the current president of Guatemala in the mass killings of civilians. Allan reports Guatemalan army associates had threatened the lives of case judges and prosecutors and that the case had been annulled after intervention by Guatemala’s president, General Otto Pérez Molina. Some of the video footage used in the show comes from a 1983 documentary directed by Mikael Wahlforss. We’ll link to it at democracynow.org and to Allan Nairn’s website, allannairn.org. http://www.democracynow.org/ http://www.democracynow.org/2013/4/19/exclusive_allan_nairn_exposes_role_of
A Crossing in the Cuchumatanes
Allan Nairn Monday, April 22, 2013 Whatever happens in Guatemala, one of history's rivers has been forded. In this case it was by people wearing huipiles and being pursued by US aircraft, slogging on as their loved ones fell and reaching the opposite shore by daybreak. By mounting a domestic criminal trial for genocide against a former state ruler they crossed the threshold into what is arguably a next phase of the human journey up from slaughter -- one marked by actual good-faith efforts to enforce society's murder laws. Those who have accomplished this are descendants of a long, rich popular tradition, a tradition whose leaders in Guatemala were almost all -- to a man and woman -assassinated. But as any smart repressor can tell you, you can kill most but you can't kill all.
General Perez Molina is Tito
Allan Nairn Friday, April 26, 2013
General Otto Perez Molina, the President of Guatemala, surprised many yesterday by finally admitting verbally that he is in fact Major Tito, who I met and interviewed on film in 1982. It was an application of the politician's tactic of getting out in front of a damaging story to frame it in their own way, in this case trying to move focus from the fact that he was field commander during the Rios Montt massacres to the minor, innocuous fact that while doing so he used a pseudonym to, he said, protect his family. Protecting one's family is admirable but it was unfortunately not an option for the many thousands of defenseless civilians massacred by Rios Montt's -- and Perez Molina's -- army.
On the Margins of the Law -- But Inside the Palace
Allan Nairn Friday, April 26, 2013
Is it possible for the Rios Montt trial to be revived? "Here it is possible for a burro to fly." It all depends on the pressure/ politics. That is the view of a senior official who prefers to speak off the record given what he describes as the delicacy of the situation. If the almost-concluded genocide trial is not permitted to reach a verdict "It will demonstrate that the army and the powerful don't have to account to anyone" and that there exists "a group that lives on the margins of the law but is still able to take the big decisions for the country." On the margins of the law -- but inside the palace. Killing-off the case, he says, would recall the adage attributed to the Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz: "'To my friends, what they desire. To my enemies, the law.'" He adds that such a move by the rulers would say to Guatemala's majority "that no institution will listen to them, that they are not citizens, that the constitution is not for them, that the law will never serve them." It would indeed be such for Guatemala. But that is also what is being said daily in every country around the world where local and foreign officials complict in mass killing have yet to be arrested and tried.
Guatemala: The decisive moment has arrived
Allan Nairn Thursday, May 9, 2013
The next 12 to 36 hours will be crucial for the Rios Montt genocide trial. The trial was suspended on April 18 after intervention by Guatemala's President and death threats by army associates against judges and prosecutors. But the backlash against the suspension was intense and the army appears to have retreated. At this moment, the trial is again going forward. Closing statements have begun. Unless the trial is stopped by violence or politics it could reach verdict soon, even today. But the hours between now and verdict-time will be long. Many bad things could happen. If anyone wants to weigh in against murder, the time to do so is now.
The Guatemala Genocide Case: Testimony Notes Regarding Rios Montt
Allan Nairn Thursday, May 9, 2013
The case against General Rios Montt has included vast amounts of evidence. My notes for my own scheduled testimony (for what happened see post of April 18) included the following observations: When Rios Montt seized power on March 23, 1982, he immediately seized control of and transformed army operations. He cut back on the urban assassinations, which had become counterproductive, and increased the massacres of the rural Mayans, the army's main "internal enemy." He took a sweep tactic that had been pioneered by General Benedicto Lucas Garcia and made it a systematic strategy, applied across the Northwest Highlands. A CIA report observed of Benedicto's -- later Rios Montt's -- method: "In midFebruary 1982 the Guatemalan army reinforced its existing force in the central El Quiche department and launched a sweep operation into the Ixil triangle. The commanding officers of the units involved have been instructed to destroy all towns and villages which are cooperating with the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP) and eliminate all sources of resistance. Civilians in the area who agree to collaborate with the army and who seek army protection are to be well treated and cared for in refugee camps for the duratiion of the operation." In practice, the civilians in the camps were often survivors of army massacres who were subject to vast coercion including execution, torture, rape, forced labor, and forced service in the "civil patrols."
Colonel George Maynes, the US military attache in Guatemala, told me that he and Benedicto Lucas had developed this sweep tactic and that Rios Montt had expanded it. A US Green Beret, Captain Jesse Garcia showed me how, under Rios Montt, he was training Guatemalan troops in the techniques of how to "destroy towns." (Allan Nairn, "Despite Ban, U.S. Captain Trains Guatemalan Military," Washington Post, October 21, 1982, page 1). The Guatemalan Catholic Bishops Conference reported in a May 27, 1982 pastoral letter: "Numerous families have perished, vilely murdered. Not even the lives of the elderly, pregnant women or innocent children have been respected ... Never in our history has it come to such grave extremes. These assassinations fall into the category of genocide." In an interview in the palace that May I asked Rios Montt about killing civilians. He said: "Look, the problem of the war is not just a question of who is shooting. For each one who is shooting there are ten who are working behind him." Rios Montt's senior aide and spokesman, Francisco Bianchi, who was sitting next to him, amplified: "The guerrillas won over many Indian collaborators. Therefore, the Indians were subversives, right? And how do you fight subversion? Clearly you had to kill Indians because they were collaborating with subversion. And then they would say, 'You're massacring innocent people.' But they weren't innocent. They had sold out to subversion." (Allan Nairn, "Guatemala Can't Take 2 Roads," The New York Times, op ed, July 20, 1982). I visited the Ixil zone in September, 1982, arriving first in Nebaj. The towns and much of the Ixil area were under army occupation. A foreign health worker said 80% of the people were malnourished. Many were dying of hunger, measles, and tuberculosis. Rios Montt's senior commander on scene was a man who called himself Major Tito Arias, but who was actually Otto Perez Molina, the current president of Guatemala.
Subordinates of Rios Montt and Perez Molina described how they tortured and killed civilians. The soldiers and officers described a strategy that centered on emptying and massacring entire villages. They said they would kill a quarter to a third of the people, place a quarter to a third of them in camps, and the rest would flee to the mountains where, if the army found them, they would shoot them on sight. The soldiers said they were still in the midst of intensive sweep operations. They also said they were under a strict chain of command that placed only three layers of responsibility between themselves and Rios Montt. In the words of Lieutenant Romeo Sierra at La Perla they were "on a very short leash." A number of soldiers named specific towns and villages in which they had committed massacres. One, a corporal named Felipe, in Nebaj, listed Salquil, Sumal Chiquito, Sumal Grande and Acul. His account was consistent with that of a man from Acul who spoke in secret and described an April massacre in which he said the army shot 24 civilians. He said the soldiers shot them in the head after sorting villagers into two groups, one of which the soldiers said they would "send to Glory" and the other "to Hell." He said: "They said that they were executing the law of Rios Montt." The descriptions of the massacre strategy from soldiers and civilian survivors were consistent. They also meshed with accounts that I heard elsewhere in the Mayan zones. (Much of the following text is drawn from Allan Nairn, "The Guns of Guatemala: The merciless mission of Rios Montt's army," The New Republic, April 11, 1983, and from my work in the 1983 documentary film "Skoop!" also known as "Deadline Guatemala" and "Titular de Hoy," done with Jean-Marie Simon and directed by Mikael Wahlforss, EPIDEM Scandinavian TV):
Just outside Nebaj, more than 2,500 campesinos had been resettled on an army airstrip. "They didn't want to leave voluntarily," explained Corporal Felipe, who manned a .50 caliber machine gun in the Nebaj church belfry. "The government put out a call that they would have one month to turn themselves in," he said, referring to a nationwide order from Rios Montt. "So now the army is in charge of going to get all the people from all these villages." Sergeant Miguel Raimundo, who was guarding a group of 161 suspected guerrilla collaborators (which included 79 children and 42 women), said, "The problem is that almost all the village people are guerrillas." According to camp records, they had been rounded up in sweeps through the villages of Vijolom, Salquil Grande, Tjolom, Parramos Chiquito, Paob, Vixaj, Quejchip, and Xepium. Sergeant Jose Angel, who commanded a La Perla platoon explained:"Before we get to the village, we talk with the soldiers about what they should do and what they shouldn't do. They all discuss it so they have it in their minds. We coordinate it first— we ask, what is our mission?" Lieutenant Sierra had noted that the sweep commanders had hourly radio contact with headquarters. He said the superior officer "knows everything. Everything is controlled." All field actions had to be reported in the commanders' daily "diary of operations" which was reviewed and criticized in monthly face-to-face evaluations. Sergeant Jose Angel explained the village-entry procedure: "One patrol enters the village from one point, on another side another patrols enters. We go in before dawn, because everyone is sleeping. If we come in broad daylight they get scared, they see it's the army, and they run because they know the army is coming to get them," Rios Montt's army had a clear policy about the meaning and consequences of such behavior. "The people who are doing things outside the law run away," sergeant Jose Angel said. "But the people who aren't doing anything, they stay." He said he had seen cases where "lots of them ran, most of a village. They ran because they knew the army was coming." Sergeant Miguel Raimundo cited three cases where villages fled en masse. "All the villages around here, like Salquil, Palob, or here in Sumal, they have a horn and
there's a villager who watches the road. If the soldiers come, he blows the horn. It's a signal. They all go running." The soldiers explained that they routinely killed these fleeing, unarmed civilians. I asked Corporal Felipe how the villagers react when the troops arrive. "They flee from their homes. They run for the mountain." "And what do you do?" "Some we capture alive and others we can't capture alive. When they run and go into the mountains that obligates one to kill them." "Why?" "Because they might be guerrillas. If they don't run, the army is not going to kill them. It will protect them." "Among those you have to kill, what kind of people are they? Are they men or women?" "At times men, at times women." "In which villages has this happened?" "Oh, it's happened in lots of them. In Acul, Salquil, Sumal Chiquito, Sumal Grande." "In those villages, about how many people did you kill?" "Not many, a few." "More than ten? More than twenty? More than a hundred?" "Oh no, about twenty."
"In each village?" "Yes, of course. It's not many. More than that were captured alive." Sergeant Jose Angel recalled a similar experience in the village of Chumansan in the province of Quezaltenango. "When we went in, the people scattered," he said. "We had no choice but to shoot at them. We killed some. . . . Oh, about ten, no more. Most of them got away." After tracking and shooting the unarmed civilians who fled in fear, the army dealt with the unarmed civilians who remained in the village. First, Sergeant Jose Angel explained, "We go into a village and take the people out of their houses and search the houses." Among the items the soldiers looked for were suspiciously large stocks of grain or beans. The army took what it could use and burned the rest. Next, he said, "You ask informers who are the ones that are doing things, things outside the law. And that's when you round up the collaborators. And the collaborators—you question them, interrogate them, get them to speak the truth. Who have they been talking to? Who are the ones who have been coming to the village to speak with them?" The soldiers often went in with target lists of "collaborators." The lists were provided by G-2, the military intelligence service headed at that time by General Rios Montt's co-defendant, General Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez. The interrogations were generally conducted in the village square with the population looking on. I asked Jose Angel how he questioned people. He replied, "Beat them to make them tell the truth, hurt them." "With what methods?"
"This one, like this," he said as he wrapped his hands around his neck and made a choking sound. "More or less hanging them." "With what?" "With a lasso. Each soldier has his lasso." The day before, in Nebaj, an infantryman who was standing over the bodies of four captured guerrillas demonstrated the interrogation technique he had learned in "Cobra," an army counterinsurgency course for field troops. [Another soldier said the guerrillas, who had set off a grenade, had been "presented" to Perez Molina for interrogation, "But they still didn't say anything, for better or for worse."] "Tie them like this," he said, "tie the hands behind, run the cord here [around the neck] and press with a boot [on the chest]. Knot it, and make a tourniquet with a stick, and when they're dying you give it another twist and you ask them again, and if they still don't want to answer you do it again until they talk." The sergeants and infantrymen of Nebaj and La Perla said the tourniquet was the most common interrogation technique. They said that live burial and mutilation by machete were also used. The soldiers said they expected those they questioned to provide specific information, such as the names of villagers who had talked with or given food to guerrillas. Failure to do so implied guilt, and brought immediate judgment and action. "Almost everyone in the villages is a collaborator," said Sergeant Miguel Raimundo. "They don't say anything. They would rather die than talk" When I asked Miguel Raimundo about the interrogation method, he replied: "We say, if you tell us where the guerrillas are, the army won't kill you. . . . If they collabo- rate with the army, we don't do anything." "And if they don't say anything?"
"Well, then they say, 'if you kill me, kill me—because I don't know anything,' and we know they're guerrillas. They prefer to die rather than say where the companeros are." According to Sergeant Jose Angel, it was common for suspected collaborators to be pointed out, questioned, and executed all on the same day. Explaining how he extracted information so quickly, he said, "Well, they don't talk like that voluntarily. You just have to subdue them a little to make them speak the truth." After the interrogations had been completed, the patrol leader would make a speech to the survivors gathered in the village square. "We tell the people to change the road they are on, because the road they are on is bad," said Jose Angel. "If they don't change, there is nothing else to do but kill them." "So you kill them on the spot?" "Yes, sure. If they don't want the good, there's nothing more to do but bomb their houses." Jose Angel said that in Solola and Quezaltenengo he had participated in operations of this kind in which more than 500 people were killed He and other soldiers said that smaller villages were destroyed with Spanish, Israeli, and U.S.-made grenades. Boxes of these grenades could be seen stacked in the Nebaj ammunition dump. The soldiers said they also used a 3.5-inch U.S.- made shoulder-held recoilless rocket that was designed as an antitank weapon but is effective against people and straw huts. At the La Perla headquarters, one such launcher was sitting next to boxes of "explosive projectile" rockets from the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant. F'or larger operations, Jose Angel said, patrols called in army planes and helicopters to bomb the villages. The helicopters were U.S.-manufactured Hueys and Jet
The bombs included U.S.-made 50-kilogram Ml/61As, twelve of which
were stacked in the base munitions dump in Nebaj. Lieutenant Cesar Bonilla, the officer in charge of the Nebaj airstrip resettlement camp said the helicopters were especially useful for catching villagers by surprise. "When you go in on foot they see the patrol three kilometers away and know you're coming. But with air transport, you land different units in the area, all the units close in rapidly, and the people can't go running away." Bonilla said that this type of operation could only be executed by several helicopters at once. "With just one helicopter you scare them away and there's no control." The United States Congress' temporary refusal to sell spare parts had grounded much of the fleet, so Lieutenant Bonilla was encouraged by reports that the Reagan Administration was considering changing the policy. "That would be wonderful," he said. "With six helicopters, for example, the airborne troops would land all at once before they could make a move. The nicest, the ideal, the dream, would be a surprise: suddenly, pow! Helicopters with troops!" As he spoke, he made machine-gun noises and waved his Israeli Galil rifle toward the refugee shacks. "Ta, ta, ta, ta, ta! All at once from the air! Pow! No escape routes. That would be ideal." The day before this conversation, a family in Bonilla's camp -- interviewed in their shack outside the view of soldiers -- described such an assault on their village. "Two times they came there in helicopters," said one of the men. "They would come in and land and the people would retire and they would always kill a few. They flew over, machine-gunning people from the helicopter." The family said that five were killed in the strafing. After the torture, the executions, and the burning, strafing and bombing, the next stage of the sweep was to chase the fleeing people through the hills. "Up here there aren't any villages anymore," said Sergeant Jose Angel, speaking of the patrol areas around La Perla. "There used to be, but then the soldiers came. We
knew that such and such a village was involved, so we went to get them. We captured some and the rest of the people from the village ran away. They're hiding in the mountains. Now we're going to the mountains to look for them." Major Tito -- Otto Perez Molina -- the commander of the Nebaj base, said in midSeptember that 2,000 people from the area of Sumal Grande had fled to the mountains and would be pursued by foot patrols and helicopters. Sergeant Jose Angel said his platoon went on such operations frequently. I asked Jose Angel what his troops did when they found refugees. "At times we don't find them. We see them but they get away." "But when you do find them, what do you do?" "Oh, we kill them." "Are they a few people or entire villages?" "No, entire villages. When we entered the villages we killed some and the rest ran away," Under the policy of Rios Montt's army, a civilian found outside the army-controlled towns could be in mortal danger. "We know the poor people from close up and far away," said Sergeant Miguel Raimundo. "If we see someone walking in the mountains, that means he is a subversive. So we try to grab him and ask where he's going; we arrest him. And then we see if he is a guerrilla or not. But those who always walk in the mountains, we know they are guerrillas. Maybe some of them will be children, but we know that they are subversive delinquents. I've been walking in the mountains for a year now, and just in the mountains, one by one, we've captured more than 500 people." Sergeant Miguel Raimundo also explained that under the army's assumptions a civilian could also be in danger if they never went anywhere: "A woman told me yesterday that the soldiers kill people, that the soldiers killed her husband. But I told
her that if the soldiers killed her husband it was because he was a guerrilla. The soldier knows whom to kill. He doesn't kill the innocent, just the guilty. And she said, 'No, my husband wasn't doing anything.' So I said, 'And how do you know it was nothing? How do you know what he was doing outside?' 'No,' she said, 'because he never went anywhere,' 'Yes,' I said, 'That's because he was a collaborator,' " It was clear from discussions with these soldiers inside the Ixil zone that, under their orders from Rios Montt and their commanders, including Perez Molina, all civilians were potential targets. Indeed, they were the principal targets. Lieutenant Romeo Sierra, who directed the sweeps through his patrol area of 20 square kilometers and 10,000 people, told me that thousands of civilians were displaced but that "in the time I've been here [two-and-a-half months] no subversives have fallen. Lots of unarmed people, women refugees, but we haven't had actual combat with guerrillas." Lieutenant Sierra also said that "human rights" was an "enemy concept." In his army training he had been taught that it had been developed "by international Communism." Years after he had been ousted from power, I interviewed Rios Montt again. I asked Rios Montt -- a firm believer in the death penalty -- if he thought that he should be tried and executed for his role in the Mayan massacres. The general leapt to his feet and shouted: "Yes! Try me! Put me against the wall!," but he said he should be tried only if Americans were put on trial too. (See Allan Nairn, "C.I.A. Death Squad: Americans have been directly involved in Guatemalan Army killings," The Nation, April 17, 1995.) Specifically, Rios Montt cited President Reagan, who, in the midst of the killings, had said that Rios Montt was getting "a bum rap" on human rights. Rios Montt, for his part, had said: "It's not that we have a policy of scorched earth, just a policy of scorched communists."
A Formal Legal Mandate for a Criminal Investigation of Guatemala's Current President, Perez Molina
Allan Nairn Saturday 11 May 2013
General Efrain Rios Montt has been found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. He has already begun his "irrevocable" sentence of 80 years in prison. The court that convicted Rios Montt has also ordered the attorney general to launch an immediate investigation of "all others" connected to the crimes. This important and unexpected aspect of the verdict means that there now exists a formal legal mandate for a criminal investigation of the President of Guatemala, General Otto Perez Molina. As President, Perez Molina enjoys temporary legal immunity, but that immunity does not block the prosecutors from starting their investigation. Last night, in a live post-verdict interview on CNN Espanol TV, Perez Molina was confronted about his own role during the Rios Montt massacres. The interviewer, Fernando del Rincon, repeatedly asked Perez Molina about his filmed interviews with me when he was Rios Montt's Ixil field commander. At that time, Perez Molina, operating under the alias "Major Tito Arias," commanded troops who described to me how, under orders, they killed civilians. At first, Perez Molina refused to answer, then CNN's satellite link to him was cut off, then, after it was restored minutes later, Perez Molina replied that women, children and "complete families" had in fact aided guerrillas. Offering what appears to be a rationale for killing families may not be a sufficient defense. But that is up to Perez Molina. He too deserves his day in court.
Ríos Montt Guilty of Genocide: Are Guatemalan President Pérez Molina, U.S. Officials Next?
Monday, May 13, 2013 _____________________________________________________________________ In a historic verdict, former U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt has been sentenced to 80 years in prison after being found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. Ríos Montt was convicted of overseeing the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after seizing power in 1982. The ruling marks the first time a former head of state had been found guilty of genocide in his own country. The judge in the case has instructed prosecutors to launch an immediate investigation of "all others" connected to the crimes. Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina was among those implicated during the trial’s testimony after having served as a regional commander under Ríos Montt’s regime. We’re joined by investigative reporter Allan Nairn, who returned to Guatemala to cover the trial after reporting on the massacres extensively in the early 1980s. During a CNN interview in which he denied that a genocide took place, Pérez Molina was confronted with statements he gave to Nairn confirming his role in the Ixil killings three decades ago. "This was a breakthrough for indigenous people against racism and a breakthrough for human civilization," Nairn says of the verdict, which he adds could have major implications for Washington. "The judge’s order to further investigate everyone involved in Ríos Montt’s crimes could encompass U.S. officials [who] were direct accessories to and accomplices to the Guatemalan military. They were supplying money, weapons, political support, intelligence. Under international and Guatemalan law, they could be charged." _____________________________________________________________________ Amy Goodman: In an historic verdict, former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt was found guilty Friday of genocide and crimes against humanity and was sentenced to 80 years in prison. Judge Yassmin Barrios announced the verdict on Friday. Judge Yassmin Barrios: [translated] By unanimous decision, the court declares that the accused, José Efraín Ríos Montt, is responsible as the author of the crime of genocide. He is responsible as the author of the crimes against humanity committed against the life and integrity of the civilian residents of the villages and hamlets located in Santa Maria Nebaj, San Juan Cotzal and San Gaspar Chajul. Immediate detention is ordered in order to assure the result of this court process and because of the nature of the crimes committed for which he has been condemned. I hereby order he enter prison directly.
Amy Goodman: Former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt was found guilty of overseeing the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after he seized power in 1982. Over the past two months, nearly a hundred witnesses testified during the trial, describing massacres, torture and rape by state forces. Also on trial was General José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, Ríos Montt’s head of intelligence. He was found not guilty of the same charges. Ríos Montt becomes the first former head of state to be found guilty of genocide in his or her own country. Ríos Montt was a close ally of the United States. Former President Ronald Reagan once called him, quote, "a man of great personal integrity." After the verdict, Judge Barrios ordered the attorney general to launch an immediate investigation of "all others" connected to the crimes. Judge Yassmin Barrios: [translated] In continuation of the investigation on the part of the public ministry, the tribunal orders the public ministry to continue the investigation against more people who could have participated in the acts which are being judged. Amy Goodman: The Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchú, who attended the trial, said there are others who should be tried for war crimes. Rigoberta Menchú: [translated] We are using the universal law. In other words, each person has inherent rights, and therefore it is a farce to say that if one is judged, all will be judged. We are not all. We are not things. If someone else is guilty of a crime, he is welcome to come and sit among the accused. Amy Goodman: One former general implicated in abuses during the trial was Guatemala’s current president, Otto Pérez Molina. In the early 1980s, Pérez Molina was a military field commander in the northwest highlands, the Ixil region where the genocide occurred. At the time, he was operating under the alias "Major Tito Arias." During the trial, one former army officer accused him of participating in executions. To talk more about the historic trial and the significance of the verdict and sentence, we go to Guatemala City, where we’re joined by investigative reporter Allan Nairn, who covered the trial and attended it in Guatemala and has covered Guatemala extensively in the 1980s. Allan Nairn, welcome back to Democracy Now! The significance of the verdict and the 80-year sentence? Allan Nairn: Well, this was a breakthrough for the idea of enforcing the murder laws, a breakthrough for indigenous people against racism and for human civilization, because you can’t really claim to be civilized unless you can enforce the law against the most basic taboo: murder. And when the murders are committed by people at the top, usually they get away with it. Even in recent years, when there’s been some progress internationally, through institutions like the International Criminal Court, in prosecuting former heads of state, generals, for atrocities, almost always the only ones who get prosecuted are those who have lost the power struggle, those who no longer
hold onto the reins of power or are no longer backed by the elites. But this case was different. In this case, a conviction was obtained against a general who represented the elite that triumphed, the military and the oligarchs who were responsible for perhaps up to a quarter million civilian murders, especially in the 1980s. Those are the people who still rule Guatemala. Yet, one of their number, General Ríos Montt, has now been convicted, because this was a prosecution that was initiated from below. And I don’t know of a case where that’s ever been done before. And this could be the beginning of something very big. I think this will be remembered for 500 years. Amy Goodman: Can you talk about what Efraín Ríos Montt was convicted of, what exactly he did? Allan Nairn: Well, he was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity. Ríos Montt ordered basically a program of extermination against civilians in the northwest highlands. That’s the area where the Mayan population of Guatemala is concentrated. They make up now, today, about half of the population of the country. And they formed—they were the part of the population that was most resistant to the rule of the army and to the rule of the oligarchy. They were pushing for land reform. They were pushing for rights to be recognized as equal citizens, which was something that, to this day, the Guatemalan oligarchy does not want to concede. And there was also a guerrilla movement that arose in the highlands. And the Guatemalan army used a strategy of massacre. They would wipe out villages that did not submit to army rule. And the soldiers at the time described to me how they would conduct interrogations where they ask, "Who here gives food to the guerrillas? Who here criticizes the government?" And if they didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear, they would strangle them to death, or they would slit their throats. If the people being questioned were women and they were pregnant, they would slit them open with machetes. They would make people dig mass graves. They would then make them watch as they shot their neighbors in the head, in the face, in the back of the skull. And this just happened in village after village after village. And it wasn’t an armed confrontation, because the villagers were unarmed. The soldiers were armed with American and Israeli weapons. The villagers were not. It was straight-up murder. It was part of a strategy that had been developed in conjunction with the U.S. In fact, the U.S. military attaché in Guatemala at the time, Colonel George Maynes, told me that this village—that he, himself, had helped develop this village sweep tactic. There was a U.S. trainer there, American Green Beret, who was training the military, and this is, in his words, how to destroy towns. And that’s what they did. And now Ríos Montt has been convicted for it. Amy Goodman: Allan Nairn, can you describe the scene in the courtroom, from the point where the judge announced the verdict and the sentence and what happened in the courtroom and with Ríos Montt next? Allan Nairn: Well, after the sentence, at one point, it looked like Ríos Montt was actually trying to flee the courtroom. It looked like his lawyers were trying to ease him out the door. And the judge started calling for security to stop Ríos Montt before he could sneak out the door.
The people in the audience started singing hymns. They started chanting, "Justice! Justice! Justice!" They chanted, "Yassmin! Yassmin!" That’s the name of the judge, Judge Barrios, who delivered the verdict. The Ixil people in the audience, many of whom had been survivors of these atrocities, who had risked their lives and come to Guatemala City to be witnesses in the trial, they stood up, and they put their arms across their—crossed their arms across the chest in the traditional way of saying thanks, and they all gave a slight bow in unison to pay tribute to the court. The supporters of Ríos Montt, his family and the former military, some of them at certain points started shouting. They actually seemed most upset when the judge said that Ríos Montt would have to pay money reparations for his crimes. And, in fact, this morning there’s going to be a hearing on the reparations. It took the—it took about 45 minutes for the prison police, who were supposed to drag Ríos Montt away, to get into the room. When they came in, I happened to be standing next to the door that they entered, and I asked, "Are you the guys who are supposed to take away Ríos Montt?" And you could see that they were extremely nervous. They were carrying long rifles. But, I mean, this is such an event that this is something they’ll be telling their grandchildren about. Amy Goodman: And how did they take him out, after he tried to leave with his lawyers before they got there? Allan Nairn: Well, there was a huge swarm of press. He was taken out, and at one point, when he was being put into the police vehicle, you could see that he was being held by the scruff of his neck by the police who were taking him away to prison. Amy Goodman: We’re going to break and then come back to talk about a very interesting CNN interview with the current president of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina, because that’s the question everyone is asking now: Does this point the finger at him, he who enjoys immunity while he is president of Guatemala? We’re speaking with investigative journalist Allan Nairn in Guatemala City, attended the trial of Ríos Montt. Ríos Montt was found guilty of genocide and sentenced to 80 years in prison, where he sits today. Stay with us. Amy Goodman: We continue our discussion about the historic verdict against former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, found guilty Friday of genocide and crimes against humanity, sentenced to 80 years in prison. Shortly after the verdict was announced, Guatemala’s current president, Otto Pérez Molina, was interviewed on CNN en Español, Spanish CNN. The host, Fernando del Rincón, asked the president about his time, Otto Pérez Molina’s time, as a military commander, but the line mysteriously cut off right after he asked the question. Fernando del Rincón: [translated] In September 1982, Allan Nairn, an investigative journalist, had documentation where Major Tito Arias appeared in a video in which he said, quote, "All the families," referencing to the families in the zone, "are with the guerrillas." That’s what you said in September 1982 in the video in an interview with Allan Nairn, an investigative journalist from the United States, who, for certain, was there to be questioned in this process against Ríos Montt.
Let’s see if we’ll return with the president, to see if we’ll hear his response to that. Amy Goodman: CNN host Fernando del Rincón returned to the question when the satellite was restored later in the interview. Fernando del Rincón:: [translated] In 1982, you appear in a video of Allan Nairn’s, which you have confirmed that you appeared, then with the name Major Tito Arias, where you say, "All the families are with the guerrillas." What did you mean by that? President Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] Look, this is another case where a phrase is taken out of context of what we were talking about. I don’t think the thing is like that, Fernando. Fernando del Rincón: [translated] No one is taking anything out of context. It is a video where it is a declaration you made. President Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] It must be raised. Of course you were taking it out of context. I can tell you here now. If you want, I can explain. In 1982— and you can come here to verify it everywhere—the faction of the guerrillas that was called the Guerrilla Army of the Poor in that area involved in entire families, without respecting their ages, from the elderly to the smallest children. They were given pseudonyms. They took over the local power. They built what they called "irregular local forces." They built what they called the "clandestine local committee." The plan was to burn. Better said, it wasn’t just a plan; they actually did burn the entire municipalities, in order to— Fernando del Rincón:: [translated] Mr. President, Mr. President, I must interrupt you. President Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] That was the context in which we were living. Amy Goodman: That is Guatemala’s current president, Otto Pérez Molina, being interviewed by CNN en Español host Fernando del Rincón. We’re joined by investigative journalist Allan Nairn, who Rincón was referring to in his questioning of Pérez Molina. You interviewed the Guatemalan president, Pérez Molina, when he was known as Tito in the highlands, Allan—that’s what he’s referring to—more than two decades ago. Explain the significance of this line of questioning and what Pérez Molina’s role was at the time that Ríos Montt has now been convicted of crimes against humanity for. Allan Nairn: Well, now this—now that Ríos Montt has been convicted for the actions that the Guatemalan army took in the highlands, the next logical step is to look at those who were implementing the plan of Ríos Montt. And the field commander on the ground at that time in the Ixil region was Pérez Molina, who is now the president. With the ruling of the judge, this is more than just a logical conclusion that Pérez Molina should be investigated. It’s now a legal mandate from the court, because the court said that the attorney general of Guatemala is ordered to investigate everyone who could have been involved in the crimes for which Ríos Montt was convicted.
When I met Pérez Molina in '82, his troops were in the midst of a series of massacres, and the troops described how they would go into villages and execute civilians and torture civilians. At one point, one of the discussions with Pérez Molina took place as we were standing over the bodies of four guerrillas who the—his troops had captured. One of the soldiers said they had turned them over to Pérez Molina for interrogation after one of them had set off a grenade. The soldier said, "Well, they didn't want to say anything in their interrogation." Another soldier told me that they, the military, had in fact finished those troops off. So, Pérez Molina is a definite logical target for criminal investigation, although at this moment, as president, he still enjoys legal immunity. But that lapses as soon as he leaves an official position. Amy Goodman: CNN host Fernando del Rincón also asked President Otto Pérez Molina if he still denies there was a genocide after Friday’s verdict. President Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] Well, Fernando, I was speaking my personal opinion. And personally, I do not want this. And I said it also when I said that there was no genocide in Guatemala. And I repeat that now. Now, after there has been a judgment, which was in a lower court, today’s ruling is not as firm. We are respectful of what justice declares, and we will continue being respectful. What I believe to be of value here, first of all, is that in Guatemala things are taking place that have never happened before. And that’s important. That is, a head of state today in a lower court having been convicted of a crime of this magnitude, which is the crime of genocide, is something that was unthinkable just 10 years ago here in Guatemala. Today what we are seeing is that justice can be exercised, justice can advance and move forward. Now, this sentence is not so firm. The ruling shall be final when the appellate process runs its course. And I imagine those defending General Ríos will pursue these options, as he, himself, stated today after he saw the sentence and said he will appeal the sentence that was declared today. Amy Goodman: CNN host Fernando del Rincón pressied President Molina further, asking him if he would go against the Guatemalan justice system and continue to deny that there’s a genocide. President Otto Pérez Molina: [translated] Well, that’s hypothetical, Fernando. What you are telling me is an assumption. What is missing here is that the higher courts declare on the matter. I am not a part of the defense of General Ríos, and I will not be part of the official defense of General Ríos. In any case, as an executive, as president of the country, what is my responsibility is to be respectful. And it is what I also ask of all Guatemalans, that we be law-abiding. Here, we have to respect and we need to strengthen all the levels of justice. And what I have always said, we want justice to be served, but we want it to be a justice that is not biased to one side nor the other, because it would cease to be justice. And then what would happen is that Guatemalans would lose rather than be strengthened. They would lose confidence in the justice system. I’m not going to issue an opinion at this time. Amy Goodman: That’s the Guatemalan president, Otto Pérez Molina, being interviewed by CNN. Investigative journalist Allan Nairn, your response?
Allan Nairn: Well, at one point, it sounds like Pérez Molina is trying to take credit for the trial. And the trial happened against his will. And, in fact, just a few weeks ago, he intervened behind the scenes to help kill the trial, and it was only revived after an intense backlash from the Guatemalan public and also international pressure. This morning’s Wall Street Journal carries a piece that has additional evidence citing various residents of the areas that Pérez Molina commanded also talking about him committing atrocities. One of the remarks that Pérez Molina made in response to the verdict against Ríos Montt—he was echoing the comments of the American Chamber of Commerce, which represents the U.S. corporations in Guatemala—was to say that this verdict will discourage foreign investment in Guatemala. It’s a very revealing comment, because foreign companies, when they come into a country and are looking to invest, they want some laws to be enforced, like the laws on contracts, and they want other laws not to be enforced, like the labor laws and the laws which stop them from murdering their employees if they try to organize unions. In the ’80s, the leaders of the American Chamber of Commerce described to me how they would sometimes turn over names of troublesome workers to the security forces, and they would then disappear or be assassinated. Fred Sherwood was one of the Chamber of Commerce leaders who described that. And now, with this verdict, it seems that Pérez Molina and the corporate leaders and the elites in Guatemala, in general, are worried that they may have a harder time killing off workers and organizers when they need to. And it’s especially relevant right now because there’s a huge conflict in Guatemala about mining. American and Canadian mining companies are being brought in by the Pérez Molina government to exploit silver and other minerals. The local communities are resisting. Community organizers have been killed. There was a clash in which a police officer was killed. So Pérez Molina has imposed a state of siege in various parts of the country. And just the other day, the local press printed a wiretap transcript of the head of security at one of these mines, in this case the San Rafael mining operation, where the security chief says to his men, regarding demonstrators who were outside the mine, he says, "Goddamn dogs, they do not—they do not understand that the mine generates jobs. We must eliminate these animal pieces of [bleep]. We cannot allow people to establish resistance. Kill those sons of [bleep]." And the security people later opened fire. This is the way foreign companies operate, not just in Guatemala, but around the world. I mean, it’s this kind of non-enforcement of law that made possible the Bangladesh factory collapse that killed over a hundred workers. And now they’re worried in Guatemala— Amy Goodman: A thousand. Allan Nairn: Oh, I’m sorry, over a thousand workers—that this Ríos Montt case could also set a precedent for just starting to enforce the murder laws. And that can make their life a little more difficult. That can raise their labor costs. It has very serious implications for them. And another aspect of this is that there’s going to be a fierce counterreaction against this verdict this week from the oligarchs, from the former military. They’re putting things out into the public calling Judge Barrios a dirty guerrilla, a hysterical Nazi. They have people following her around town with video cameras to try to imply that
she’s not behaving in a proper manner for a judge. They’re going to try to get the courts, which have—other courts, which have traditionally been tools of the oligarchy and the military, to nullify the verdict against Ríos Montt. This battle is far from over. Amy Goodman: Allan, there are three remarkable, prominent women who have— who are part of this verdict, who have helped to make it happen. One is the Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, one of—who brought suit, that has led to this trial. One is the attorney general, the first woman attorney general, Claudia Paz y Paz. And then there is Judge Barrios, the judge in this case. Can you talk about these women? Allan Nairn: Well, it was Rigoberta Menchú who helped to get this whole process started years ago with legal cases filed against Guatemalan generals for atrocities in the Mayan region. That helped produce a criminal court case in Spain, where—in the Audiencia Nacional, where the Spanish courts indicted and tried to extradite Guatemalan generals and former officials to Spain. I testified in that trial. And one of the survivors of the massacres who testified in that trial mentioned that Pérez Molina—this was an aside at the trial, because there were so many officers who were implicated—that Pérez Molina had been involved in this man’s torture. One of the reasons that this case against Ríos Montt has been able to go forward is because the current attorney general, Paz y Paz, is a person of great integrity and has allowed it to go forward, obviously against the wishes of Pérez Molina and the oligarchy. And Judge Barrios was the one who was—who was directly on the lines. She ran the trial. She was the one who had to deliver the verdict. As she left the courthouse every night, you could see her wearing a bulletproof vest. The judges and prosecutors involved in the case received death threats. In one case, a threat against a prosecutor, the person delivering the threat put a pistol on the table and said, "I know where your children are." It takes a lot of courage to push a case like this. And there are enough people in Guatemala who have been willing to stand up that it’s been able to go forward, but they’re doing so at considerable risk. And just to give you an idea of the kind of environment they’re operating in, there’s a piece that just came out in Plaza Pública, one of the—kind of the leading political magazine in Guatemala, where they interview the families of the military, who have been protesting against the Ríos Montt trial. These are young people, now extremely rich because of all their money their parents stole in the military. And one of the topics that they talk about in this interview is the rape charges against the generals and colonels, because witness after witness talked about how indigenous women would be raped in the course of these massacre operations. And one of the military family men says that, "Well, yes, these rapes—some of these rapes may have happened, but they didn’t happen as a rule." And he then defends the military men by saying he doesn’t think that they would systematically rape the indigenous women, and he then uses language so vile that I can’t repeat it on the air. But the essence of his argument is that—his argument is not that they wouldn’t have done it because it would be wrong to rape or because it’s against the law to rape or because these military men have honor or because it’s indecent to rape; his point was that they wouldn’t have committed these mass rapes because they wouldn’t have—because of personal
characteristics of the indigenous women, they would not have found them desirable. But he expresses it in the most disgusting language you can imagine. This is the oligarchy that has now been—and the military, that has now been stung by this verdict and is itching for payback. And one final legal point I should make, the mandate that the judge gave, the order to the attorney general, Judge Barrios’s order to the attorney general, Paz y Paz, to further investigate everyone involved in Ríos Montt’s crimes, that could encompass U.S. officials, because the U.S. military attachés in Guatemala, the CIA people who were on the ground aiding the G2 military intelligence unit, the policy-making officials back in Washington, people like Elliott Abrams and the other high officials of the Reagan administration, they were direct accessories to and accomplices to the Guatemalan military. There were supplying money, weapons, political support, intelligence. They, under the law—under international and Guatemalan law, they could be charged. The courts and the attorney general could have right to seek their extradition from the U.S. Also, in the investigation process, they could subpoena U.S. documents, because there would be extensive reports and National Security Agency intercepts of Guatemalan army communications from that period, and there would also be still-classified reports on exactly what the CIA and the DIA and the White House and the State Department were doing with Ríos Montt and with the commanders in the field, people like, well, before Ríos Montt, General Benedicto Lucas García, afterward Pérez Molina. So, both President Pérez Molina and the U.S. are now potential targets for criminal investigation for these crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity in Guatemala. Amy Goodman: Allan Nairn, we will leave it there for now, investigative journalist on the ground in Guatemala City, and end with a clip of Rigoberta Menchú, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was there through the trial, speaking at the beginning of the genocide trial of Ríos Montt. Rigoberta Menchú: [translated] It’s a very big day for Guatemala. It’s a very big day for those of us who have defended our lives in difficult circumstances, very painful circumstances of great isolation, of exile. It looks like our period of pain is ending, because we hope that from now on we will be accepted by Guatemalan society, in our polarized society, the society that carries the burden of past genocide on their backs. Amy Goodman: That’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú. The former dictator of Guatemala, Efraín Ríos Montt, has been sentenced to 80 years in prison. He was taken to prison after he was found guilty on Friday. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. We’ll link to Allan Nairn’s blog at allannairn.org. That’s A-L-LA-N-N-A-I-R-N.org. And you can see all of our coverage of this trial and our interviews on Guatemala at democracynow.org. http://www.democracynow.org/ http://www.democracynow.org/2013/5/13/ros_montt_guilty_of_genocide_are
Additional Evidence on Perez Molina
Allan Nairn Monday, May 13, 2013 General Otto Perez Molina, the President of Guatemala, didn't want his name coming up during the Rios Montt trial. (See post of April 18). But one witness implicated Perez Molina in the atrocities, and today's Wall Street Journal notes that additional testimony may be available. Nicholas Casey reports: "Another witness in the [Rios Montt genocide] trial, a Mayan peasant named Tiburcio Utuy, also testified in a separate investigation against Mr. Rios Montt in Spain that Mr. Perez Molina ordered him to be tortured in the 1980s. Mr. Utuy wasn't asked about Mr. Prez Molina in the Guatemala trial because the current president wasn't the trial's focus... In a 2010 article about human rights crimes related to torture accusations against Mr. Perez Molina during 1982 and 1983, The Wall Street Journal interviewed six other villagers from towns he commanded who accused him and soldiers he commanded in killing civilians whom the witnesses said had nothing to do with rebels. Among those who named Mr. Perez Molina in the killings were two of the men he commanded at the time." (Nicholas Casey, "Guatemala Genocide Case Pressures Leader," The Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2013). Rios Montt is in prison but those who carried out his plan are still free. If serious investigations are permitted, there will be no shortage of evidence.
Allan Nairn Monday, May 13, 2013 One of the many profound ramifications of the genocide conviction of Rios Montt is that there is now new incentive for additional witnesses to come forward. It's one thing to risk your life when the chance of justice seems remote, but it's another when it starts to look like a fair hearing might indeed be possible. After Judge Jazmin Barrios delivered the verdict in the Rios Montt trial, the Maya Ixil survivors in the audience -- many of whom had given testimony -- stood up, crossed their arms across their chests, and bowed to the court, saying "Thank you." Any uncaught murderer watching that had to feel a sudden chill. His victims are safely dead and gone. But those who know what he did? Still alive.
Follow Guatemala's Lead: Convene a Genocide Case Grand Jury
Allan Nairn Wednesday, May 15, 2013 A Guatemalan court has ordered a criminal investigation of all others involved in the Rios Montt crimes. It won't be easy. Prosecutors and judges will be risking their careers and lives. Witnesses will know that they might die if they come forward to give evidence. But Guatemalans have already shown great courage in advancing the Rios Montt case. It's time for Americans to do the same and convene a US grand jury on Guatemala. US prosecutors could aid law enforcement in two fundamental ways: first, with information and second, if warranted, with indictments. The US, which supported Rios Montt's army, has vast stores of information. It should all be turned over to the prosecutors in Guatemala. A proper disclosure would include still-classified White House, Pentagon, NSA, CIA and State Department documents, as well as US intercepts of communications among General Rios Montt and his army. It's important to remember that at the time of these crimes, as now, the US was not a mere outside observer: it was a full-fledged participant. US bombs were dropped from US-supplied aircraft on fleeing Mayan villagers. US personnel were present in Guatemala, training and giving advice to the Rios Montt army. US personnel were inside the G-2, the notorious military intelligence and targeting unit. The CIA carried many top Guatemalan army commanders on its payroll. And Rios Montt, as he was committing the crimes, got political support from President Reagan, personally. So the US has responsibilities here, moral and political but also legal. The US should now confess to Guatemalan law-enforcement. It should tell them everything: what it knew, what it did, who it paid. And the US should also indict and try any current or former US official who was accessory or accomplice -- or worse -- to the Rios Montt crimes.
And, of course, it should also be ready to comply with its responsibilities by being willing to extradite any US officials charged in Guatemala. US prosecutors have an obligation to take these steps. This case involves crimes of the highest magnitude. US law enforcers who step forward might indeed run some career risk. But unlike so many Guatemalans so far, they can be pretty sure they'll live.
Allan Nairn: After Ríos Montt Verdict, Time for U.S. to Account for Its Role in Guatemalan Genocide
Wednesday, May 15, 2013 _____________________________________________________________________ Following last week’s guilty verdict in Guatemala’s historic genocide trial, reporter Allan Nairn says the United States should follow Guatemala’s lead and indict the Reagan administration officials who supported the genocide under General Efraín Ríos Montt. "All of [these crimes] were crimes not just of General Ríos Montt, but also of the U.S. government," Nairn says. Former President Ronald Reagan once called Ríos Montt "a man of great personal integrity." After the verdict, Judge Yassmin Barrios ordered the attorney general to launch an immediate investigation of "all others" connected to the crimes. _____________________________________________________________________ Amy Goodman: As we wrap up, investigative journalist Allan Nairn, the compensation end of the trial, what you feel needs to be done now? You have covered this throughout these decades. Allan Nairn: Well, all of the crimes that Rigoberta Menchú just described were crimes not just of General Ríos Montt, but also of the U.S. government. The U.S. prosecutors in Washington should immediately convene a grand jury with two missions: first, coming to the aid of the Guatemalan attorney general, who has just been ordered by the court to investigate all others involved in Ríos Montt’s crimes, by releasing all classified U.S. documents about what happened during the slaughter, which U.S. personnel were involved, providing to the Guatemalan attorney general a list of all Guatemalan army officials and security force officials who were on the payroll of the American CIA, and then proceeding to issue indictments against U.S. officials who acted in the role of accessory or accomplice to the crimes for which Ríos Montt has already been convicted. Amy Goodman: And those people, you believe, would include? Allan Nairn: The top officials of the Reagan administration who made the policy— President Reagan is deceased, but his top aides, including Elliott Abrams and many others, are still alive; the U.S. CIA personnel on the ground who worked within the G2, the military intelligence unit that coordinated the assassinations and
disappearances; the U.S. military attachés who worked with the Guatemalan generals to develop this sweep-and-massacre strategy in the mountains. There would be hundreds of U.S. officials who were complicit in this and should be subpoenaed, called before a grand jury and subjected to indictment. And the U.S. should be ready to extradite them to Guatemala to face punishment, if the Guatemalan authorities are able to proceed with this. And General Pérez Molina is one who should be included. And Pérez Molina, himself, was among— Amy Goodman: The president. Allan Nairn: Yes—is among those who was on the CIA payroll. Amy Goodman: We will leave it there. Allan Nairn, investigative journalist, Rigoberta Menchú, Nobel Peace laureate, we thank you so much for being with us in Mexico City. http://www.democracynow.org/
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