Efraín Ríos Montt

Efraín Ríos Montt
Rios Montt.png
26th President of Guatemala
In office
March 23, 1982 – August 8, 1983
Preceded byRomeo Lucas García
Succeeded byÓscar Humberto Mejía Víctores
President of the Congress of Guatemala
In office
January 14, 2000 – January 14, 2004
Preceded byLeonel Eliseo López Rodas
Succeeded byFrancisco Rolando Morales Chávez
Personal details
José Efraín Ríos Montt

(1926-06-16)June 16, 1926
Huehuetenango, Guatemala
DiedApril 1, 2018(2018-04-01) (aged 91)
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Resting placeCemetery of La Villa de Guadalupe, Guatemala City, Guatemala
Political partyGuatemalan Republican Front
Children3 (including Zury Ríos Montt)
ProfessionClergy, General
Military service
Allegiance Guatemala
Service/branchGuatemalan Army
Years of service1951–1983

José Efraín Ríos Montt (Spanish: [efɾaˈin ˈrios ˈmont]; June 16, 1926 – April 1, 2018) was a Guatemalan general and politician who served as President of Guatemala. Born in Huehuetenango, he was a dictator who took power as a result of a coup d'état on March 23, 1982.[1] He was overthrown by his defense minister, Óscar Humberto Mejía Victores, in another coup d'état on August 8, 1983. In the 2003 presidential elections, Ríos Montt unsuccessfully ran as the candidate of the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG). In 2007 he returned to public office as a member of Congress, thereby gaining prosecutorial immunity. He was protected from a pair of long-running lawsuits alleging war crimes against him and a number of his former ministers and counselors during their term in the presidential palace in 1982–83.[2][3] His immunity ended on January 14, 2012, with the end of his term in legislative office. On January 26, 2012, he appeared in court in Guatemala and was formally indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity.[4]


Montt enrolled in the Military Academy of Guatemala in 1946. He attended the School of the Americas in 1951.[5] In 1954, the young officer played a minor role in the successful CIA-organized coup against President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán.

Following the coup, Ríos Montt rose swiftly through the army ranks, becoming deputy chief of staff in 1968. In 1970, under the military regime of President General Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio, he was promoted to brigadier general and chief of staff of Guatemalan Army.[6]

In 1973, Ríos Montt resigned from his post at the Washington embassy to participate in the March 1974 presidential elections as the candidate of the National Opposition Front (FNO). He lost the election to a rival right-wing candidate, General Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García, by 70,000 votes. Since Laugerud didn't get a majority, the election was thrown to the government-controlled National Congress, which promptly elected Laugerud. According to some accounts, Ríos Montt appeared to be on his way to a majority when the government abruptly halted the count and manipulated the results to make it appear Laugerud had won by a narrow plurality.[citation needed]

Ríos Montt denounced a "massive electoral fraud", blaming his defeat on a conspiracy from the Catholic Church and the Mayan minority. Ríos Montt especially viewed Catholic priests as leftist agents who had questioned the mistreatment of the Catholic Mayas. Ríos Montt resolved and stated that "he would one day even the score."[7] It is alleged that he was given a payoff of several hundred thousand dollars along with the post of military attaché in the embassy in Madrid, Spain, where he stayed until retiring in 1977.[8]

In 1978, he left the Roman Catholic Church and became a minister in the U.S. "aligned right-wing fundamentalist church" evangelical/pentecostal Church of the Word, a sect headquartered in Eureka, California[9][10][7] later Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson became personal friends. Ríos Montt joined the movement and assumed the role of becoming a teacher of the religion. Ríos Montt's brother Mario Enrique Ríos Montt is a Catholic bishop, and in 1998 succeeded the assassinated Bishop Juan Gerardi as head of the human rights commission uncovering the truth of the disappearances associated with the military and his brother.[citation needed]

Other Languages