Ríos Montt, José Efraín

Ríos Montt, José Efraín hōsāˈ ĕfräēnˈ rēˈōs mōnt [key], 1926–2018, Guatemalan general and politician. A career army officer, he became head of the Guatamalan army in 1970. As a Christian Democrat, he made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1974 (his loss was believed due to fraud), then was posted as a military attaché to Spain until he retired from the army in 1977. In 1982 Riíos Montt became president of Guatemala following a military coup. During his time in office, he cracked down on opposition groups and labor unions, and waged a murderous scorched earth campaign against Ixil Maya, who were seen as supporting leftist rebels. Ríos Montt was overthrown by his defense minister, Gen. Óscar Mejía Victores, in 1983. In 1989 he founded the Guatemalan Republican Front, which he represented in congress (1990–2004, 2008–12). He also served as president of the congress (1995, 2000–2004), and ran unsuccessfully for president in 2003. In 2013 Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity for the campaign against the Ixil Maya, but a retrial was ordered by the constititutional court on procedural grounds, and he later (2015) was ruled mentally unfit to stand trial and be sentenced.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Latin American History: Biographies