Yesterday, former dictator Rios Montt, who ruled during the most violent phase of Guatemala’s 36 year civil war was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced to 80 years of prison. It marks the first time a former head of state has been convicted of genocide in their own country.
He was tried over the killings of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil indigenous group, which is just a small fraction of the number who died during his rule.
When the verdict was handed down there were screams of “justice!, justice!” heard right outside the courtroom. Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu said, “Today we are happy, because for many years it was said that genocide was a lie, but today the court said it was true”.
Tears of joy, hope, and sadness run down my face everytime I read these stories because my brothers and sisters right across the border are currently living through a very similar nightmare. They too are called liars and criminals by the government in Mexico and the United States. We cannot deny the role of the United States in either human rights disaster. Too bad Ronald Reagan isn’t around, but I bet even if he was he’d probably be immune. I hope this is the beginning of a trend and that in the age of information leaders will be held accountable for their actions against their people. I hope Felipe Calderon is at least a little frightened and that Peña Nieto is taking note. Mostly, I hope that this helps the victims find at least some peace with the past.