Former Guatemalan dictator Jose Efraín Ríos Monttl. (Image: Elena Hermosa / Trocaire, CC BY 2.0)
Central America, Guatemala, Latin America: Week in Review

Former Guatemalan Dictator on Trial For Genocide Declared “Unfit”

July 8, 2015 By Staff

Top Story — An official team of government-backed doctors declared 89-year-old former Guatemalan dictator Jose Efraín Ríos Montt is “mentally incompetent,” a consensus that could stall his ongoing trial on human rights charges in connection with the genocide of Mayans during Guatemala’s civil war.

The opinion, given by the National Institute of Forensic Scientists, determined that Montt’s mental state is such that he is unable to participate in his own defense or understand the charges against him. Montt is charged with the genocide of 1,771 Mayans between 1982 and 1983. He was initially convicted in 2013, and sentenced to 80 years in prison, but the sentence was overthrown just two weeks later, Montt was returned to house arrest and the trial was ultimately suspended.
Montt is set to appear for trial on July 23, but now it is up to a three-judge panel if that trial will go forward as planned.

Montt’s daughter, Zury Ríos Sosa, announced earlier this year that she would be running for president. Ríos Sosa has maintained during her campaign that there was no genocide during the civil war, and that her father is innocent.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Mexico’s Human Rights Commission has asked the army to use clearer phrasing in its orders to troops, following revelations that soldier were effectively instructed to extrajudicially kill suspected criminals.


  • Carnival, the world’s largest cruise line, has been cleared to offer the first cruises between the United States and Cuba since the two agreed to normalize relations, with service to begin in May 2016.
  • U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Tuesday lent her support to efforts by Democratic senators to give Puerto Rico’s government access to bankruptcy protection so it can restructure its $72 billion in debt.

Central America

  • City Lab has published a photo essay showing the expansion of the Panama Canal and the freight industry as a whole.


  • The four countries mediating peace talks between Colombia’s government and FARC rebels — Norway, Chile, Venezuela and Cuba — released a statement asking for an “urgent de-escalation” of the conflict amid continuing clashes between the two sides.
  • Pope Francis’s visit to Ecuador has drawn massive audiences, but the country’s most important indigenous association, which has been at odds with President Rafael Correa, said they were left of the pope’s agenda.

Southern Cone

  • Brazil has introduced new rules mean to curb a high percentage of caesarean childbirths in hospitals — 85 percent in private hospitals, 45 percent in public — by mandating that women must be made aware of inherent risks and sign a consent form before their doctor can perform the procedure.
  • Argentina’s Supreme Court ruled that a patient who was in a motorcycle accident in 1994 and has required life support ever since is allowed to die, regenerating the controversial debate over the country’s “death with dignity” law.
  • Chile’s lower house in Congress approved a bill that would decriminalize marijuana for personal use and recreation, though the bill still has several steps before it can become a law.

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