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Efraín Ríos Montt

Efraín Ríos MonttAKA José Efraín Ríos Montt

Born: 16-Jun-1926
Birthplace: Huehuetenango, Guatemala

Gender: Male
Religion: Born-Again Christian
Race or Ethnicity: Hispanic
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Head of State

Nationality: Guatemala
Executive summary: President of Guatemala, 1982-83

Military service: Guatemalan Army (Gen.)

Ríos Montt came to power in a coup orchestrated by Capt. Rodolfo Muñoz Piloña and other junior military officers who gathered 900 supporters. The right-wing Army General was a parishioner at Iglesia El Verbo, a Pentecostal church which came to Guatemala from Eureka, California in 1976. During his brief presidency he intensified the war on guerrillas and the Mayan indigenous, precipitating the deaths of many thousands and the displacement of a million. It was not just war, but holy war, on a scale that Guatemala has not seen before or since. Sought-for assistance from the United States was never forthcoming[1], but Pentecostals sent money and justified his mass killing[2]. Politically his rule was precarious -- bureaucrats found his lack of tolerance for graft unacceptable to their pocketbooks -- and the three-man junta he led was overthrown by his own Defense Minister.

A term in the legislature provided the retired general with temporary immunity from any prosecution. That term ended in 2012, and in 2013 to the surprise of essentially everybody Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity by Guatemala's barely functioning legal system. The court applied a sentence of 80 years. The successful trial is landmark as it occurred in his own country, making him the first head of state so convicted. Ten days after conviction, the Guatemala Supreme Court overturned the decision on technicalities and sent it back for reconsideration of issues raised by various defense maneuvers.


[1] Ronald Reagan called Rios-Montt "a man of great personal integrity and committment... my administration will do all it can to support his progressive efforts." White House speech, 4 December 1982.

[2] A Gospel Outreach official is quoted by Sara Diamond, Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States: "The Army doesn't massacre the Indians. It massacres demons, and the Indians are demon possessed; they are communists. We hold Brother Efraín Ríos Montt like King David of the Old Testament. He is the king of the New Testament."

Wife: María Teresa Sosa Ávila

    President of Guatemala (23-Mar-1982 to 8-Aug-1983)
    Ousted in a Coup 8-Aug-1983
    House Arrest (2012-13)
    Crimes Against Humanity 26-Jan-2012 (convicted, overturned)
    Genocide 26-Jan-2012 (convicted, overturned)
    Psychiatric Observation Jul-2015


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