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Use of Colville report[edit]

C. J. Griffin tagged the reference that I added to the 1984 Colville report as "primary source" and added an "undue weight" template at the top of the corresponding sub-section. I've since added other reliable secondary references that make a similar point: that some observers consider the counter-insurgency strategy under Ríos Montt a clear improvement over what had happened in previous governments, and especially under his predecessor, General Romeo Lucas García. Moreover, I don't think that the Colville report can be considered a "primary source" in this context. Lord Colville was the official United Nations special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in Guatemala from 1983 to 1987. Also, the report quoted was written after Ríos Montt had already been removed from power, and is therefore not an evaluation made in the heat of the moment by someone directly involved in the events in question. Colville was a politically independent British jurist, and his assessment of the situation in Guatemala deserves at least as much attention as the 1982 report from Amnesty International that was already being discussed in the article. The question of the extent to which Ríos Montt curbed extrajudicial killings and kidnappings is, at the very least, open to debate. During his brief term of office, Ríos Montt himself said repeatedly and emphatically that subversives should be killed in combat or captured and tried, instead of being secretly kidnapped, tortured, and killed by death squads.

Let me add that, as I've tried to summarize and to document in my recent edits, Ríos Montt was actually a complicated character operating in a profoundly complex and dysfunctional society, and not the straightforward fascist monster portrayed by most of the international press after 1982. My interest in the subject goes back more than fifteen years, when I was first surprised to learn that many ordinary Guatemalans had a high or at least ambivalent estimation of him, something which at first seemed incomprehensible to me. — Eb.hoop2 (talk) 20:21, 26 March 2021 (UTC)[reply]

I tagged it as a primary source because it was written while the war was still going on and shortly after he was deposed, and is more of a historical document now than a reliable assessment of what happened during the period, especially given the subsequent findings of the Historical Clarification Commission and his genocide trial and conviction (which was overturned on a technicality), and retrial which wasn't completed due to his ill health and death. The argument made in the source that "killings and kidnappings virtually ceased under the Ríos Montt regime" is almost unheard of in contemporary reliable sources on the topic, and in fact literally every scholarly or media source I have seen on the subject states almost the exact opposite: that the most intense violence of the Guatemalan Civil War occurred during Montt's brief tenure. So I would not really consider such a position open to debate given that is the only source added to the article which advances it, and considering the date of the report I would consider it WP:UNDUE without further analysis of it in contemporary scholarship.
And the material you added following Colville's statement doesn't really buttress it at all. The statement that "chaotic terror" was replaced with "a more predictable set of rewards and punishments" doesn't mean that state violence and killings abated. If anything, it demonstrates that the violence became more systematic and better organized in Montt's attempt to "drain the sea," with whole communities being uprooted and subjected to forced labor and confinement in virtual concentration camps under inhumane conditions. And of course massacres (e.g., Dos Erres massacre), arbitrary executions, forced disappearances, torture and rape continued during this new counter-insurgency campaign of the Guatemalan state under Montt, as the commission makes clear. I would hardly consider that an improvement for the "lot of the rural population of Guatemala . . . under Ríos Montt." And that he enjoyed "particularly strong electoral support" in regions where intense state violence took place seems to me to be irrelevant to the section and in no way corroborates Colville's quoted statement. Stalin is enjoying a surge of popularity in Russia and other areas of the former USSR too, that doesn't mean widespread killings didn't occur under his rule.
Would any other editors like to weigh in on this dispute?--C.J. Griffin (talk) 13:59, 27 March 2021 (UTC)[reply]
I think that there might be some confusion about what Colville meant in the quoted phrase. The "killings and kidnappings" that he claimed had virtually ceased under Ríos Montt (only to return under his successor) referred specifically to death squads, i.e., to groups acting outside of official military or judicial channels. This is why I prefaced it with the term "extrajudicial". I don't believe that there is really any clear consensus in the more serious modern scholarship to discount that. As I said, it was actually a big part of Ríos Montt's official discourse that subversives should be "executed" rather than "murdered", by which he meant that the death squads would be replaced by overt military operations and by some form of official justice.
Moreover, if you read the most up-to-date scholarship on the subject, looking past the rhetoric and value judgments at the concrete evidence reported, you may find that neither the numbers of the dead nor the question of Ríos Montt's personal responsibility for crimes against humanity —and especially for genocide— are really settled. For instance, Garrard-Burnett wrote in 2010, after referring to the two Truth Commission reports, that

If the figure 200,000 is correct, this would mean that somewhere close to 86,000 people died during Ríos Montt's tenure, an astonishing total not (yet?) borne out by forensic excavations of mass burial sites but which, at least, lends symbolic ballast to the charge that large, perhaps incalculable, numbers died at the hands of the regime. (p. 7 in the book cited in the article)

Note that she begins by invoking a conditional about whether the 200,000 dead for the whole 36-year-long civil war is correct or not, then noting that it is not based on physical evidence from mass burials. She gives a figure of 86,000 killed under Ríos Montt regime, but presumably this number is also uncertain, and does not distinguish between combat deaths and the killing of innocent civilians. In the article just published by Bateson in Comparative Politics, the estimate quoted for the number of those killed by the Guatemalan state during Ríos Montt's regime is 75,000.
Ríos Montt was convicted in 2013 by a Guatemalan judge for the deaths of 1,771 people. The disparity with the previously quoted numbers is striking. Moreover, that verdict was not, as far as I've been able to tell, based on strong forensic evidence. It was quashed by the Constitutional Court on the grounds that the trial judge had ignored its previous rulings about allowing Ríos Montt an effective defense. The proceedings were highly politicized, in part because the elderly Ríos Montt was still a significant and controversial figure in Guatemalan politics, and especially because of the presidential ambitions of his daughter Zury Ríos.
In summary, I do not think that we can discount Colville's report as being flatly contradicted by a later consensus. Let me point out also that Colville's work as UN special rapporteur is important in that it bears directly upon the history of the international response to Ríos Montt's rule, which is a legitimate topic of interest in this article. — Eb.hoop2 (talk) 15:53, 27 March 2021 (UTC)[reply]
The aforementioned Dos Erres massacre alone demonstrates the absurdity of the position advanced by Colville that "extrajudicial" killings ceased under Montt, and that wasn't an isolated incident. A 2012 BBC report on the massacre says the following:

Gen Rios Montt, 85, was in power from 1982-1983, when some of the country's worst civil war atrocities occurred. Whole villages of indigenous Maya were massacred as part of government efforts to defeat left-wing rebels.

Not really in keeping with the assertions quoted from the Colville's report by my estimation. These weren't mere "executions"; hundreds of people were literally butchered. None of that could reasonably be seen as "some form of official justice." Same goes for the establishment of concentration camps and forced labor which accompanied the blanket repression associated with Montt's counterinsurgency campaign.
Regarding the disparity between the various higher estimates of victims and the 1771 killings he was convicted of, the goal here was to secure a conviction, not to establish an exact tally of victims. Similarly, Saddam Hussein is widely seen as being responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, but ultimately was convicted of killing 148 people. And like Montt’s trial, there were numerous accusations of political bias, which is not surprising given the contentious Iraq war which ousted him. Accusations of bias also accompanied the trials of other rulers accused of mass killings and genocide, including Hissène Habré and Mengistu Haile Mariam.
It was a chaotic civil war, so an exact accounting of victims would be impossible. Quibbling over estimates doesn't really change anything. This is par for the course in scholarship on genocide and state killing, and not at all unique to Ros Montt's case. Stalin's death roll, for example, ranges from 3 million to multiple tens of millions (although more recent evidence has discredited some of the higher estimates).
Nevertheless, none of the above has changed my opinion on the source in question being undue. As no one else seems to be interested in joining this discussion, we seem to be at an impasse. Perhaps an WP:RfC might help.--C.J. Griffin (talk) 05:01, 28 March 2021 (UTC)[reply]
Unfortunately, no one else seems to have joined this discussion in more than a month. So let me add here that I've been looking further into the existing literature on the subject, and there's at least one other current and respectable secondary academic source that supports the claims made by Lord Colville that the human rights situation in Guatemala improved markedly under Ríos Montt. Carlos Sabino is a sociologist and historian who was born and educated in Argentina and who taught for many years at the Central University of Venezuela before retiring and settling in Guatemala. In his two-volume Guatemala, la historia silenciada (1944-1989), published in 2007 by the Fondo de Cultura Económica, in Mexico, he claims that the army's counter-insurgency offensive in the Guatemalan highlands was launched towards the end of 1981, well before the coup that brought Ríos Montt to power. Sabino also writes that the severity of the massacres perpetrated by the army peaked in May 1982 and then declined sharply afterwards, presumably because of the policies of the new government. Sabino re-edited the book in 2017 and published an English translation. Sabino has written several other books about recent Guatemalan history and supervised many dissertation on the subject at the Universidad Francisco Marroquín. He was among those who in 2013 publicly expressed the view that the singling out of Ríos Montt for prosecution over war crimes committed during the Guatemalan Civil War could be explained only by political considerations.
I accept that this article should reflect, as it currently does, the fact that most commentators have regarded the charges of crimes against humanity and genocide against Ríos Montt as well founded. But it should also, at the very least, mention that there have always been credible, informed, and not obviously interested voices that have challenged that interpretation. Colville's official 1984 report to the UN still seems to me the most important of them. -Eb.hoop2 (talk) 11:29, 2 May 2021 (UTC)[reply]
Is this the same Carlos Sabino who regularly writes right-wing columns for the libertarian website PanAm Post, such as this unbelievably misleading polemic from 2017 "From Venezuela to France, Socialism Is Failing All Over the World"? (France? Last I checked the country has been in an uproar for the last three years not over the "failures of socialism", but the harsh neoliberal policies imposed by the Macron government which clearly favored the very rich at the expense of the working class. But I digress. I could write walls of text debunking this but this talk page is not the place for that.) Sure, he might be a "respectable" academic in some circles, but his claims about the Rios Montt government are clearly revisionist, and his political views are quite extreme. It also seems to me that, from what I can tell, his revisionism is based on his politics, and not because new evidence came to light to justify revising the consensus view, as happened in the field of Soviet studies following the archival revolution of the 1990s.
It seems we do agree on something, that "most commentators have regarded the charges of crimes against humanity and genocide against Ríos Montt as well founded." This is the consensus view in contemporary scholarship and mainstream discourse on the subject of the Guatemalan genocide and Rios Montt's role in it. As an example, the book Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the 20th Century (Cornell University Press, 2004), says on page 211 that "The Guatemalan army under Rios Montt dramatically escalated the already brutal war of counterterror that it inherited from Lucas, killing more people in less than fifteen months than Lucas had in almost four years." It took me just a few minutes to pull a book of my bookshelf and find this passage. I'm sure I could find myriad other examples given the time. The revisionist views that you are adding to the article, that killings largely ceased or dropped sharply during Montt's tenure and on his orders, qualify as WP:EXTRAORDINARY which "requires multiple high-quality sources". I don't believe an antiquated primary source and one right-wing scholar with fringe views meets that threshold. Regarding the former, what weight is this given in contemporary scholarship? Is it deemed a credible source on the genocide and Rios Montt's role in it, especially in light of subsequent evidence and scholarship which directly contradicts it? Unless reliable, contemporary secondary sources can be provided which show this report is notable I still hold the position that its inclusion is WP:UNDUE. If this remains, it should be clarified for readers that this is not the consensus. Additions from the Valentino book might be a good start.--C.J. Griffin (talk) 05:19, 3 May 2021 (UTC)[reply]
I think that your last response ignores several important arguments that I'd made previously. The first is that it's far from clear to me that the Colville report should be considered a "primary source". It was published in 1984 on the authority of the UN, after Ríos Montt was already out of power. Colville went on to publish further reports in '85, '86, and '87 that do not contradict the first report. The article (properly) cites an Amnesty International report from 1982, in the midst of the violence and of the brief Ríos Montt regime.
You're also ignoring the references and quotations to the work of David Stoll, including his statement that the Nebajeños liked Ríos Montt because "he offered them a chance to surrender without being killed" (which argues rather strongly against a deliberate policy of genocide). This is very different from the case of support for Stalin in modern Russia that you alluded to earlier. This is a respected anthropologist, whose research has focused precisely on the ethnic group allegedly targeted for genocide by Ríos Montt, documenting the support for Ríos Montt among a majority of the survivors of precisely those military actions alleged to have constituted genocide.
With respect to Sabino, the point is not so much his political views as the fact that he's one of the few people who've published extensive academic research of their own about the Guatemalan Civil War, investigations carried out in Guatemala and which have made use of testimonies and documents not available elsewhere. Most of the published sources that discuss the subject are written by people who've been content to take their facts from the REMHI and CEH reports. I don't think that there's anything wrong with that, but it can tend to give the impression that there is a consensus on the subject that does not actually exist among the researchers who've studied the subject themselves.
Moreover, if you know Latin American academia at all, you might note that it's all the more remarkable that Sabino (given his publicly expressed pro-free market views) should have succeeded in getting his two volumes about the Guatemalan Civil War published by the Mexican government's FCE, which is perhaps the most prestigious academic publisher for the social sciences in Latin America and has traditionally had a decidedly left-wing tilt (its current director is the very leftist Paco Taibo).
According to Sabino himself, writing in 2016, the only other full academic studies of the Guatemalan Civil War, besides his own, are Yvon Le Bot, La guerre en terre maya. Communauté, violence et modernité au Guatemala, 1970-1992 (Karthala, 1992), and a couple of books published, respectively, by Francisco Villagrán Kramer and Héctor Gramajo (both of whom participated directly in some of the events and cannot therefore be accepted as impartial observers). I've not read Le Bot's book, but Sabino cites it in support of some of his conclusions, including the exaggerated death tolls.
I certainly think that the view that the charges of genocide against Ríos Montt are well established is dominant in the secondary literature, but I deny that it is a consensus. In my edits I have tried to reflect just that. - Eb.hoop2 (talk) 11:59, 3 May 2021 (UTC)[reply]
I think that the section on the counterinsurgency is OK as it now stands. The secondary literature on the allegations of crimes against humanity and genocide, and Ríos Montt's role, is reviewed fairly. If others don't object, I'll remove the "undue weight" tag in a few days. - Eb.hoop2 (talk) 17:06, 5 June 2021 (UTC)[reply]
Since a longstanding content dispute regarding Efraín Ríos Montt's role in perpetrating war crimes and genocide is still ongoing in the article, a surprising development given the copious amount of reliable sources and a judicial tribunal that found his government guilty of crimes against humanity in the 1980s, I wish to resolve it right here, for the sake of stability. As far as we are aware, EB Hoop's sweeping changes and addition of contentious and questionable material to this article, which apparently seeks to exonerate Montt of any complicity in the aforementioned genocide, have not received any actual support in the discussion at hand, neither by CJ Griffin nor by an uninvolved third party review, and violate both WP:UNDUE and WP:FRINGE, as they seek to unduly give weight and credence to fringe and antiquated viewpoints on the Guatemalan Civil War, especially the extraordinary claim that extrajudicial mass killings and brutality "significantly dropped" under Ríos Montt's regime despite multiple historians explicitly revealing how his government was the most brutal period of the civil war, killing more people in several months than Romero Lucas Garcia did in his entire term in office. So far, the only support for EB Hoop's claims apparently come from a series of outdated and outright questionable sources, including a columnist for a right-libertarian tabloid that had made many false claims in the past, and a fringe scholar that ran a smear campaign against an indigenous human rights activist named Rigoberta Menchú, falsely accusing her of fraud and supposedly fabricating her testimony. With this mind, the edits EB Hoop seeks to preserve do not at all meet the WP:EXTRAORDINARY standard to allow such a drastic change to the article, especially not when it comes to exonerating him, and it is for this reason I have reverted them, particularly as they never obtained legitimate approval for their passage on the talkpage, and potentially serve as an attempt to whitewash a well-documented atrocity. I rest my case. (talk) 17:51, 16 September 2021 (UTC)[reply]
The source characterized above as "a columnist for a right-libertarian tabloid" is Carlos Sabino. The main work in question is Guatemala: La historia silenciada, published in two volumes in 2007-08 by the most prestigious academic publisher in the social sciences in Latin America, the Fondo de Cultura Económica, based in Mexico. Sabino retired as a full professor from the Universidad Central de Venezuela and his writings on research methodology are among the most cited of any living Latin American social scientist. Just one of those books, El Proceso de Investigación, is currently listed by Google Scholar as having 8,619 citations. After moving from Venezuela to Guatemala, he has also directed the postgraduate program in history of the Universidad Francisco Marroquín. If he should have and express right-libertarian opinions, I do not see how this makes him unworthy of discussion on the subject of this article.
Even more egregiously, the other "fringe scholar" referred to above is David Stoll, who even a critic called "a responsible scholar who’s done a great deal of valuable work in Guatemala" after questioning his conclusions about Rigoberta Menchú in the New York Review of Books (see this exchange). Stoll's critique of Menchú's testimony was eventually embraced by the sociologist who had originally written up and published that testimony, Elizabeth Burgos. Burgos even wrote a preface to that effect for the extended edition of Stoll's book.
Other references that this anonymous editor has tried to remove are to the French sociologist and expert Latin Americanist Yvon Le Bot and to the official UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Guatemala from 1983 to 1987, Lord Colville of Culross. This editor has also attempted to distort the fact that although Efraín Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide by a trial court in 2012, that verdict was vacated ten days later by the Constitutional Court and his re-trial was still ongoing when he died, after which the case against him was closed and his co-defendant was acquitted.
We are instructed to presume good faith from Wikipedia editors. But in this case I feel obligated to point out that there's reason to believe that the above anonymous editor is someone who was permanently banned from Wikipedia for extensive and persistent sock-puppetry (see Wikipedia:Sockpuppet investigations/SmalforaGiant). This page has already been semi-protected twice because of disruptive editing by IP addresses connected to that banned editor. It was also necessary to semi-protect the page on David Stoll for the same reason (including introducing material potentially libelous to a living person) and I'll be keeping an eye on that. - Eb.hoop2 (talk) 15:17, 17 September 2021 (UTC)[reply]
I am not even sure who exactly is "SmalforaGiant" to begin with, nor why did he vandalize Wikipedia. To my knowledge, I have never registered any such account, nor did I engage in sockpuppeteer vandalism, and it would be unwise to accuse someone of such serious misconduct without irrefutable evidence to accompany it. We have the presumption of innocence for a reason, after all, and making the conclusion that one may be a sockpuppet from a line of code of all things is not exactly a well-founded concern. Regardless, Carlos Sabino's flaws have already been revealed by CJ Griffin, who notes several questionable articles he wrote for a right-libertarian tabloid by the name of PanAm Post, including a factually incorrect claim that the protests in France against Macron's government are supposedly caused by the "failures of socialism" rather than neoliberal austerity measures, indicating a prominent bias towards the hard-right, to the point that it compromised his factual accuracy, and likewise, his material that supposedly exonerates Ríos Montt appears to be motivated by his political beliefs and agenda, rather than actual archives being unearthed that would justify such a drastic revision of the historical record, and he would therefore not qualify as a high quality reliable source to satisfy the "Extraordinary Evidence" standard. As for Lord Colville, his report, while not having the ideologically driven false claims that Sabino's analyses have, is an outdated and incomplete document that was published before the Guatemalan Civil War even ended, in an era where the nation still lived under an autocratic regime, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get complete information on Ríos Montt's regime that weren't distorted by propaganda and censorship, and subsequent scholarly analyses and commissions after Guatemala's transition to democracy revealed that Efraín Ríos Montt's regime was directly responsible for multiple crimes against humanity and genocides against the Indigenous people of Guatemala, motivated by claims of "communist subversion", and that, contrary to the view that is being presented here, Montt's junta oversaw the bloodiest and most violent period of the civil war, massacring more people in just one year than Romeo Lucas Garcia did in an entire term in office. We should always use the most up-to-date scholarship whenever available, especially on such a traumatic and contentious subject like the Guatemalan genocide, and presenting outdated and obsolete rapporteur reports from a time period in which it was virtually impossible to comprehensively investigate Guatemala in a proper manner as an equivalent conclusion to the current consensus falls foul of Wikipedian policy. Finally, as for David Stoll, he too was the center of a serious controversy after he published questionable claims that accused Rigoberta Menchú and other Indigenous activists of supposedly "fabricating their testimonies for leftist radicals", a paper which made him the subject of heavy criticism from several anthropologists and historians, who noted numerous major factual errors and conflicts of interest in his thesis, along with the questionable history of individuals who he derived his conclusions from, and his findings were not at all corroborated to the extent that a new consensus was formed. As a short note on the supposed acquittal, Montt was never found innocent of crimes against humanity by any court, and the verdict's overturning was based on an alleged procedural irregularity, a claim stated by judges that had close ties to Montt himself and his FRG party, rather than reasonable evidence being presented thst proves him innocent in regards of the Guatemalan genocide, and he was still on trial up until his untimely death from a heart attack, so he was never officially exonerated of any misconduct. Thus, with this in mind, none of the sources that EB Hoop presented here are sound enough to qualify as high-quality reliable sources under the "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" standard, and are therefore not nearly sufficient enough to justify such a drastic revision of Efraín Ríos Montt's biography, as seen on this article, especially not without solid talkpage consensus, something that hasn't been achieved either, and since we appear to be at an impasse due to the relative obscurity of this article, having another uninvolved person resolve this dispute for us seems like the best solution. Would you agree with this step? (talk) 20:19, 18 September 2021 (UTC)[reply]
EB Hoop, it seems to me you want to make a drastic change to an article about a leader involved in the genocide of thousands of indigenous people. Rios Montt was a right wing leader, and you citing a source by a radical far-right to push this change is not reliable. Further, you cite David Stoll, who has accused indigenous activists such as Rigoberta Menchú (who lived through the genocide) of lying about their experiences for the sake of "left wing radicals". My point being, what is driving you to push for this radical change on an encyclopedia article? As said before by the anonymous user (who you falsely accused of sockpuppetry), there is nobody else pushing for this huge change but you. You continually cited Stoll who slandered an indigenous activist from my tribe of K'iche' Maya to push a change that would remove an acknowledgement of the genocide and violence indigenous people faced in Guatemala. Despressso (talk) 03:19, 22 November 2021 (UTC)[reply]
Per David Stoll#Rigoberta Menchú controversy, it seems that Stoll's main findings were widely corroborated by other experts.TheTimesAreAChanging (talk) 04:28, 22 November 2021 (UTC)[reply]
In response to Despressso, let me clarify a few things: 1. I'm not pushing for any changes to the current article at all. I was defending the current text from an anonymous editor who was trying to remove large amounts of properly sourced and cited material that s/he disagreed with. 2. I'm morally certain that that anonymous editor was the same person who was permanently banned from Wikipedia due to extensive sock-puppetry (see Wikipedia:Sockpuppet investigations/SmalforaGiant/Archive). This editor is based in Bratislava, Slovakia, and has shown a consistent pattern of disruptive editing focused on pages connected to far-right or anti-Communist political topics. I interacted extensively with this person on Wikipedia and the administrators have semi-protected several pages, including this one, because of those disruptive edits. Moreover, one of the user names officially confirmed as a sock puppet of SmalforaGiant, User:Alexander Zubatov, edited this article in 2019 in order to label Ríos Montt as a "war criminal" in the first sentence of the lead. 3. I think it's evident that we can't disqualify sources that meet Wikipedia's standards for reliability (see Wikipedia:Reliable sources) simply because an editor considers the authors to be far-right or because s/he disagrees with their views on another subject. My concern has always been to present a balanced summary of the various divergent evaluations of Ríos Montt and his regime by reliable published sources, not to minimize the credible accusations against him. - Eb.hoop2 (talk) 03:30, 23 November 2021 (UTC)[reply]
Your other discussion right under this shows that you want to change the "convicted" part of the article. Your "morally certain" thoughts that "s/he (they would really be a better word) disagrees with their views on another subject" have no relevance to an anonymous editor. Accusing people for no other reason is not cause to change or not change the article. Despressso (talk) 22:45, 23 November 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Convicted war criminal?[edit]

It seems to me that labelling Ríos Montt as convicted (as is currently being done here in the short description and in the categories) may be problematic. A Guatemalan court did in fact convict and sentence him for war crimes and genocide in 2013, but that verdict was soon overturned by the country's Constitutional Court and a retrial was never completed. I think that a lawyer could argue that Ríos Montt was therefore not, in the end, actually convicted of anything. Is there a Wikipedia policy about such cases?

I may add that this isn't just a legal quibble. When the Constitutional Court quashed Ríos Montt's conviction, many journalists commented on the fragility and corruption of the Guatemalan judiciary, but this cuts both ways. Many people, including foreign observers and ordinary Guatemalans, have said that the army and the death squads behaved more lawlessly under his predecessor Gen. Lucas García and under his successor Gen. Mejía Víctores, neither of whom ever went to trial, perhaps because they weren't politically significant figures anymore after the return to democracy.

I've tried to look seriously into the evidence that was used to convict Ríos Montt in 2013. His defense was that, though the army did commit war crimes during the counter-insurgency campaign of 1982-83 (including massacres of civilians, rapes, and tortures), this had not been with Ríos Montt's knowledge or under his orders. This isn't entirely implausible on the face of it, especially considering that Ríos Montt did not, in fact, ever have a solid hold over the entire army (which has always been the most powerful social institution in Guatemala), as evidenced by the fact that he lasted less than 17 months in power before being overthrown by his own Defense Minister. Ríos Montt had been on the outs with the army high command since 1973, had been publicly denounced as a "communist" by the far-right during the 1974 electoral campaign, dropped out of active military service altogether by 1977, and had not been directly involved in the planning of the 1982 coup that ended up putting him in power.

What evidence was presented in the 2013 trial that Ríos Montt had actually ordered the crimes for which he was convicted? I can find only two mentioned online (see, e.g., here). One of them seems to me so weak that it may even bring into question the good faith of the prosecution: In the course of a long interview at the Presidential Palace that he gave in 1982 to US journalist and filmmaker Pamela Yates, Yates asked him if he really controlled the army on the ground (a question evidently motivated by a widespread perception at the time that he didn't) and Ríos Montt responded: "If I can’t control the Army, then what am I doing here?". Under the circumstances, could he have said anything else? Using this as evidence in the 2013 trial seems to me a "gotcha" move with no probatory value.

The other evidence mentioned is a cache of official military documents related to an Operación Sofía. Here this is presented as clear evidence of a deliberate policy of genocide under Ríos Montt. But I've gone through the entire file and nothing in it is either signed by or addressed to Ríos Montt. If you read the evaluation (in Spanish) prepared by Kate Doyle of the National Security Archives, you'll find that she says that the documents show that "the chain of command functioned at all times and that the High Command —which at the time would have included the Commander General of the Army and de facto Minister of Defense Efraín Ríos Montt and the Vice-minister of National Defense Oscar Humberto Mejía Víctores, both charged in [the case brought by Rigoberta Menchú in Spain]— were perfectly informed of operations in the field" (emphasis added to highlight the use of the subjunctive, presumably because the names of Ríos Montt and Mejía Víctores are not actually in the documents). But Doyle also notes that the file covers only "one month and three days" of operations in one specific location (Nebaj, Quiché) and that nothing in the file "gives any explicit information about the perpetration of massacres".

I therefore don't think that, particularly in the absence of a settled legal conviction for a crime, the characterization of Ríos Montt as a "convicted war criminal" can be regarded as totally uncontroversial and neutral. - Eb.hoop2 (talk) 11:47, 30 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]

@Eb.hoop2 at the time of writing this reply, Ríos is no longer labelled as convicted, except to mention he was convicted at some point. Thinker78 (talk) 00:42, 20 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]