Efraín Ríos Montt Biography

Efraín Ríos Montt is a former Guatemalan President who is known for having committed genocide against the Mayans of his country. To know more about his childhood, profile, career and timeline read on.

Efraín Ríos Montt
Quick Facts

Birthday: June 16, 1926

Nationality: Guatemalan

Famous: Dictators Male Leaders

Age: 93 Years, 93 Year Old Males

Sun Sign: Gemini

Also Known As: Efrain Rios Montt, José Efraín Ríos Montt

Born in: Huehuetenango

Famous as: Politician

political ideology: Guatemalan Republican Front

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: María Teresa Sosa Ávila

children: Zury Ríos Montt

Founder/Co-Founder: Guatemalan Republican Front

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Efraín Ríos Montt is a politician, hailing from Guatemala, who is known for being one of the most brutal dictators in his short reign of one and a half years. He started his political career as a military officer who led an uprising against the dictator President Romeo Lucas García. Once the dictator was overthrown, Montt took over as the de facto President, and continued the military regime that the masses had hoped would end. He disregarded human rights, and took severe action against the guerrilla who protested against him. He permitted his army to mercilessly target the whole ethnic group of Mayans, in the process torturing and murdering them. Ironically, the US government of Ronald Reagan supported Efraín in his activities, stating publicly that the state of human rights in Guatemala was better than before. A year later, he was ousted by his defence minister Óscar Victores. Ríos made several unsuccessful attempts at becoming the President thereafter but was barred from the elections because of his violent rule before. During this time he was elected as the President of the Congress, a unicameral legislature, in Guatemala. In recent times, he has been arrested and tried on several occasions for genocide against the Mayans, on the basis of allegations by ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ winner Rigoberta Menchú.

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Efraín Ríos Montt
Childhood & Early Life
  • José Efraín Ríos Montt was born in the Huehuetenango municipality of Guatemala on June 16, 1926.
  • In 1946, he started his military training in the 'Military Academy of Guatemala'. Five years later, he enrolled in the United States Department of Defense Institute, 'School of the Americas', which is now known as the 'Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation'.
  • This young military officer played an insignificant role in the US CIA-led uprising against the then Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, which took place in 1954.
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Career
  • Ríos was appointed as the Deputy Chief of the 'Staff of Army', in 1968. Two years later, President of Guatemala, Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio designated Montt as 'Chief of Staff' and 'Brigadier General' of the Guatemalan Army.
  • In 1973, Efraín decided to contest in the Presidential elections to be held the following year, and gave up his office at the Washington embassy. However, he was easily defeated by right-wing candidate, Brigadier General, Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García.
  • He served at the Guatemalan embassy in Spain till 1977, as a military attaché. The next year he became a pastor of the Pentecostal 'Church of the Word' in California. In the meantime, General Fernando Romeo Lucas García became the President of Guatemala.
  • The election of García was suspected to be rigged and many poverty-stricken peasants suffered under his rule. To overcome the turbulent situations, peasants belonging to the Catholic-Mayan ethnic group of Guatemala came together and formed the ‘Peasant Unity Committee’. The organization fought for human rights and land reforms that would benefit Guatemalan farmers.
  • Some peasants began revolting against President García, and on March 23, 1982, he was deposed. Coup leaders Horacio Egberto Maldonado Schaad and Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez formed a committee led by Ríos.
  • Initially, the new committee gave some hope to the peasants. However, the members of the junta soon dissolved the constitution and legislature, and started arresting and torturing insurgents.
  • On April 10, Efraín introduced the 'National Growth and Security Plan' which zeroed in on the areas of conflict in the state.
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  • On June 9, the junta was dissolved and he declared himself the chief of the armed forces as well as the 'Minister of Defence'. Following this move, dissidents formed the ‘Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity’, and protested against the politician's rule.
  • To counter the revolts, Ríos started a military campaign called 'frijoles y fusiles', where he destroyed almost 600 Mayan villages, including the municipality of Plan de Sánchez. In this infamous massacre, more than 250 children and women belonging to the ‘Achi Mayan’ ethnic tribe were raped, tortured and killed by Montt's army. Ironically, during this time he delivered sermons over the radio, speaking about the need to substitute violence with love.
  • Despite the support of US President Ronald Reagan, Efraín was deposed in 1983, as a result of a coup led by his Minister of Defense, General Óscar Humberto Mejía Victores.
  • In 1989, the ‘Guatemalan Republic Front’, a political party was formed by Ríos Montt. The next year, he attempted to contest in the elections, but was prevented from doing so, by a law restricting participants of military uprisings from becoming the President.
  • In 1994, he was elected once again as the President of the ‘Guatemalan Republic Front’.
  • In 1995, Efraín made a second attempt at contesting in the elections and was prohibited once again. The next year, the ‘Guatemalan Civil War’ ended with the signing of a peace treaty between the government and the guerrilla organization, ‘Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity’.
  • A report by Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera of the Roman Catholic Church was released in 1998, where the priest declared that 90% human rights were abused by the army, during the Civil War. Two days later, as a repercussion to his report titled 'Recovery of Historical Memory (Never Again)', Conedera was murdered.
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  • In 1998 Ríos Montt was re-elected for a third term as head of the FRG. The next year, 'Nobel Peace Prize' winner Rigoberta Menchú, from Guatemala, pressed charges against the politician for genocide and state-sponsored terrorism.
  • The Guatemalan politician ran for the President's post once again in 2003, but his campaign was withheld by the Supreme Court. His supporters protested against the court's decision on July 24, with weapons, and this day came to be known as 'jueves Negro' ('black Thursday').
  • On this day, a TV journalist, Héctor Fernando Ramírez, popularly known as 'Reporter X', succumbed to a heart attack after being chased by the angry mob. Protestors resorted to extreme violence for two consecutive days till Montt ordered them to stop.
  • The political leader lost to Óscar Berger of the 'Grand National Alliance' party, and the latter was elected President. Since Ríos was already contesting the presidential elections, he was barred from being a member of the Congress.
  • Efraín was prohibited in March 2004, from leaving the country, according to a court order that decided put him on trial for the death of journalist Ramírez and the protests held the previous year.
  • In 2005, Spanish judge Santiago Pedraz decided to investigate further into the case presented by Nobel Prize winner Menchú. Pedraz was however unsuccessful in trying Montt for "crimes against humanity", because of fifteen defence appeals made by the latter's lawyers.
  • The politician won a seat in the Congress after the 2007 elections, but after five years when his term ended, he was arrested for genocide based on the case presented by Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz. Though released on bail, Ríos has been under home detention since then.
  • In March 2013, this retired politician was sentenced to eighty years of imprisonment, for planning and implementing genocide. In May, his lawyers appealed against the court sentence and the Constitutional Court ruled that he would be tried once again in 2015.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • Efraín is married to María Teresa Sosa Ávila—the couple have three children, Zury Ríos Montt, Enrique Ríos Sosa and Homero Ríos Sosa. Zury is also a politician in Guatemala, who is contesting the 2015 Presidential elections, even though she does not belong to any political party.
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Trivia
  • A 1983 movie titled 'When the Mountains Tremble', by Pamela Yates, an American documentary film director, and human rights activist, has been used as evidence against this tyrannical Ex-President of Guatemala. The former head of state is the first to have been convicted in his country, for crimes of genocidal nature.
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See the events in life of Efraín Ríos Montt in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Efraín Ríos Montt Biography
Author
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
Website
- TheFamousPeople.com
URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/efran-ros-montt-5915.php
Last Updated
- April 11, 2018

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