Most documentaries record and preserve history – only a few change the arc of history.In Guatemala in the early 1980s, a young American documentary filmmaker named Pamela Yates bore witness to massive crimes and atrocities at great personal risk to make her film.This year, a quarter-century later, her footage became critical evidence used to convict a military dictator of genocide. The Central American country had been torn apart by decades of U.S. funded civil war when General Efrain Rios Montt seized power in 1982 and launched a scorched earth campaign against the Mayans and leftist guerillas....
by Van Gosse
Credit: Flickr.Despite the May 20 ruling by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court, which overturned the original verdict on procedural grounds, the May 10 conviction of that country’s former head of state, General Efrain Rios Montt, for the genocide of Guatemala’s Mayan people, could be a defining event in modern history.
MEXICO CITY — They were just children when Guatemalan soldiers rampaged through their villages, often killing their parents and siblings. Many fled to mountain forests, where they foraged for food and watched some of their numbers starve to death. Some were abducted and sent to other families to be raised, in cities and towns far from the life they had known.Now, the somber Mayan men and women in their 30s and 40s have traveled from their villages to tell their stories for the prosecution during the first month of the genocide trial of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala City. In the tortured logic of military planning documents conceived under Mr. Ríos Montt’s 17-month rule during 1982 and 1983, the entire Mayan Ixil population was a military target, children included. Officers wrote that the leftist guerrillas fighting the government had succeeded in indoctrinating the impoverished Ixils and reached “100 percent support.”...
MEXICO CITY — A Guatemalan judge on Monday ordered Efraín Rios Montt, the former dictator, and his intelligence chief to stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in connection with the massacres of villagers in remote highlands three decades ago.The ruling clears the way for a public trial for Mr. Rios Montt, a former general who ruled Guatemala for 17 months in 1982 and 1983 during the bloodiest period of the country’s long-running civil war. It is a stunning decision for Guatemala, where the military still wields significant power behind the scenes and the country’s elected governments have struggled to build democratic institutions....
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