Thursday, January 25, 2007

Efraín Ríos Montt hits the comeback trail

What's left in life for a retired Central American dictator when he's 81 years old?

Why, running for congress, of course. Former Guatemalan military strongman Efraín Ríos Montt has, like so many dictators in the past year, found that it's hard to get the taste of politics out of your mouth once its acquired. Rios Montt is running for congress at an age when most men are merely grateful to still be alive. Then again, a cynic might note that Rios Montt could be seeking to enjoy the immunity granted to lawmakers in Guatemala.

A graduate of the infamous School of the Americas, Rios Montt seized power in a 1982 coup d'etat, and established himself as the chairman of a military junta. During his two years in office, Rios Montt gained international infamy with his used of a scorched earth campaign against mostly indigenous Marxist rebels. Despite the generous financial support of anxious cold war allies in Washington, Rios Montt was himself deposed in a military coup in 1984. Rios Montt's human rights abuses were so notorious that the 1992 Nobel prize for peace was awarded to a Guatemalan political activist who survived his reign. Rigoberta Menchú's purportedly autobiographical book was chock full of fantasy, but Rios Montt's reputation for human rights abuses was so gross and so blatant that hardly anybody took her to task for her fictions.

Rios Montt emerged to run for president back in 2003, (with completely disastrous consequences), but has found himself largely occupied with threats of prosecution at home and abroad for the human rights abuses committed during his reign, but should he win a congressional seat, he can rest easy.

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