Efrian Rios Montt is a name most Americans don't know, but should. He was a Pentecostal minister, a friend to Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and a Guatemalan politician who had the support of President Reagan, who called him a "man of integrity and commitment."
Rios Montt became dictator of Guatemala in 1982. The CIA supported his rise. When he became dictator, he set about supressing the indigenous Mayan population. In the seventeen months before he was overthrown, his forces killed about 200,000 Mayan people--men, women and children. The ditches in the highlands of Guatemala filled with bodies. It was a horrific time.
Maya Quetzal is my favorite restaurant here in Tucson. It is run by a Mayan woman who escaped to Tucson through an underground railroad run by some Roman Catholic clerics, who Rios Montt also considered enemies worth killing.
Today, I was at Maya Quetzal. I was the only one in the restaurant. I am there frequently, so we laugh and have a good time. But I have never asked their story. A new man was there today. He was friends with the owner. He was eating a breakfast of Mexican sausages. I wanted them, too, they smelled so good, but they weren't on the menu.
They were teasing in Spanish as I checked out. Turns out the man, whose name is Carlos, had just told some Morman missionaries to leave.
"I believe in God," he told me, "just not religion!"
I had just read about Rios Montt, so I decided to chance it. "What about Rios Montt?" I asked.
His eyes got wide. He was surprised an American would know the name.
The woman translated as the man told me he had been imprisoned for six months under Rios Montt. He was tortured daily. He showed me his scars. He was forced to drink all of his own urine for those six months. His hands were handcuffed behind him the whole time.
His crime? He was a trade union representative. And Mayan.
When Rios Montt was finally convicted of genocide this past year, his old friend Pat Robertson had nothing to say about it on the 700 Club. No apologies from him, or from Falwell before he finally croaked. Of course not. They're never wrong!
Of course since then, we progressed to torturing Muslims ourselves.