The Ríos Montt genocide trial continues to unfold in a country deeply ambivalent about both its past and its present. Anthony Fontes provides a glimpse of the complexities of modern Guatemala.
On May 10, 2013, ex-general Efraín Ríos Montt, who as military dictator oversaw the bloodiest years of Guatemala’s long civil war, was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity in a Guatemalan court. Human rights activists in Guatemala and the world over have pushed for this sentence for more than a decade. The case finally gained momentum in January 2012, when Ríos Montt lost the judicial immunity he had enjoyed as a member of Congress. The trial began in mid-March 2013 and continued in fits and starts, with Ríos Montt’s defense team trying to derail the proceedings at every turn. During the trial, they filed more than 100 appeals, and despite the recent court ruling, the legal process could drag on for months or even years.