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May 14, 2013

Ambassador says Rios Montt trial would have had adverse effects on October 6th referendum

Efrain Rios Montt

Former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt was sentenced to eighty years in prison after being found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity on May tenth.  Under his regime, one thousand seven hundred and seventy one indigenous people were killed in 1982 and 1983.  A witness at the trial accused current Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina of participating in the deadly strikes as a regional commander who was known as Tito Arias. The trial judge has instructed prosecutors to investigate other military personnel who had participated in wartime crimes under Ríos Montt. Belize’s ambassador to Guatemala speculates that the verdict has an effect on the way Guatemala will conduct itself at the upcoming General Assembly of the O.A.S. which will be hosted in Antigua, Guatemala. Ambassador Fred Martinez indicated that Guatemala can’t afford to bear additional embarrassment and so it may not attempt to use the offensive map showing Belize annexed to Guatemala. But Martinez says there are other ways in which the trial has an impact and he says that current sentiment would have had an adverse effect on the outcome of the referendum to forward Guatemala’s claim to the International Court of Justice for arbitration.


Jose Sanchez

“The former dictator of Guatemala has been convicted of war crimes and though he was seen as the orchestrator of the events, Tito, the man on the ground seen interviewed in videos, standing over the bodies and has admitted to being Tito is now current president of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina. How does this affect us in going forward? Can we negotiate with this man?”


Fred Martinez

Fred Martinez, Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala

“Well he is the sitting president and he represents the country and the state, so we have no other choice; one. And number two, what has come out in that trial is the evidence of one person, not everybody. Just one person that has said yes I recognized that that gentleman called Comandante Tito Arias, who happens to be the president. But that has not been proven and therefore those are allegations of one witness—very damning allegations obviously—but we cannot go by what is not yet tried and proven. So we have to respect that there is the state. We don’t deal directly with Perez Molina; we deal directly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Guatemala. And therefore we cannot go into speculations as to whether he was there or not.”


Jose Sanchez

“I do believe he’s given interviews claiming that he was Tito—he has admitted that over the years. But the pressure coming on the current president of Guatemala, being an ambassador, do you see any additional pressures? How does it affect us, if any, over the next coming years? He is in office until 2016.”


Otto Perez Molina

Fred Martinez

“Well what has happened is that the first effect of that entire pressures—and I wouldn’t say pressures on him as having been involved or not—as I’ve said those are allegations which have not been proven and it is only the evidence given by one witness. But there have been effects on this whole process; even on the referendum. And the way I’ve interpreted it and I have advised the Foreign Ministry is that it is the collective wisdom of diplomatic corps in Guatemala, as we are observers of the whole process; that the country right now is extremely polarized. Besides the Rios Montt’s trial which was building up and whichever way that trial went—whether they found him guilty or not guilty—the polarization would have been even greater. The ex-military which number in the hundreds of thousands are totally upset that one of their kind has been taken to court and has been tried. And the social groups, the civil society groups, the human rights groups are jubilant now. But what would have happened if he had been found not guilty? They would have also be totally against the decision of the court and again leading to more polarization. So the country is in a state of social upheaval due to this whole trial and even the effects. I haven’t been back to Guatemala since the trial on Friday; the trial’s verdict. But it has affected and it is our appraisal that part of the reason that they can’t go to October is that if they hold a referendum anytime within the next few months this year, due to side effects and after effects of what is going on—not only the Rios Montt trial, but with other things happening—the vote might have very well been a punishment vote of no. Not because the people were voting on the Belize issue. The people would have turned around and voted against the president and his government.”

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5 Responses for “Ambassador says Rios Montt trial would have had adverse effects on October 6th referendum”

  1. Lift up your head says:

    Strike while the iron is hot. The guats are playing mind games with us and it is time to turn the tide. Belize has nothing to do with genocide that occured so why should we care if the guat population turned against their president and voted no to the ICJ. That might actually work out in our favor. I hope I understood the last three paragraphs of Fred Martinez’s speech because that is what I am referring to.

  2. Storm says:

    The point should be moot by now — ICJ was always a bad idea, where we could lose, but we could never win.

  3. Eye in the Sky says:

    Funny how Fred Martinez who also destroyed a Maya ruin at Noh Mul was rewarded for his actions by being appointed ambassador and not an inmate of Kobe.

    And right after he destroyed the Mayan ruin the PUP came into power and did nothing either.

    No politician in Belize seems to care, and the 99% of the people forget by the weekend.

  4. Neville says:

    Great reminder, Eye in the Sky — thanks!

  5. SKEPTICAL says:

    And that is the problem “Eye in the Sky,” people forget QUICK. The people must start holding these politicians accountable.

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