In Guatemala, a landmark trial is underway against former U.S.-backed dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Ríos Montt is charged in connection with the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region during a scorched-earth campaign purportedly aimed at rooting out guerrillas. He is the first head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide. On Tuesday, Nobel Peace Prize winner and indigenous activist Rigoberta Menchú welcomed the court proceedings.
Rigoberta Menchú: “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.”
Ríos Montt seized power in 1982, and his 17-month rule is seen as one of the bloodiest chapters in Guatemala’s genocide.