Skip to main content

Ríos Montt, José Efraín (1926–)

Ríos Montt, José Efraín (1926–)

José Efraín Ríos Montt (b. 16 June 1926), president of Guatemala (23 March 1982–9 August 1983). General Ríos Montt came to power in the 23 March 1982 coup that overthrew then president General Fernando Romeo Lucas García. The military-instigated coup named a three-man junta consisting of Ríos Montt, General Horatio Maldonado Schad, and Colonel Francisco Gordillo to head the government. In June 1982, Ríos Montt dismissed his fellow junta members and named himself president of the republic.

At the time Ríos Montt took office, significant portions of the western highlands, particularly in the department of El Quiché and the northern Transversal along the Mexican border, were controlled by or sympathetic to Guatemala's armed resistance, which had united in 1980 to form the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG). Ríos Montt launched a massive counterinsurgency campaign, known as "rifles and beans," to drive the insurgents from the largely Indian highlands. This effort was a military success in that it greatly reduced rebel power; but thousands of civilian lives were lost, and the United Nations estimated that as many as 1 million Guatemalans were forced into exile during this period.

From 1 July 1982 until 23 March 1983, Ríos Montt declared a nationwide state of siege, banning all union and political activity, granting arresting powers to the armed forces, nullifying guarantees of privacy, eliminating writs of habeas corpus, and enforcing strict press censorship. Ríos Montt also established "special tribunals" in which suspected guerrillas and criminals were prosecuted without trial by jury.

Ríos Montt attracted a great deal of attention outside of Guatemala during his term of office, in part because he was an evangelical Protestant and publicly associated himself with his church, the Church of the Word (Verbo), which had its home office in California. Ríos Montt's strong reliance on advisers from his church displeased the Guatemalan military, which forced his ouster in 1983. Other reasons for the military's dissatisfaction with Ríos Montt included his failure to shore up the nation's faltering economy, and his reluctance to set a date for new national presidential elections.

On 9 August 1983, Ríos Montt was overthrown in a military coup led by his own minister of defense, Oscar Humberto Mejía Victores. After the military removed him, Ríos Montt returned to Guatemalan politics in 1989, when he founded the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG). While the government banned him from running for the presidency, he served as a deputy in Guatemala's national legislature between 1990 and 2004. In 2003, he received permission to run for the presidency but obtained only 11 percent of the popular vote in that year's election.

See alsoGuatemala; Guatemala, Political Parties: National Guatemalan Revolutionary Unity (URNG); Mejía Victores, Oscar Humberto.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Joseph Anfuso and David Sczepanski, He Gives, He Takes Away: Efraín Ríos Montt, Servant or Dictator? (1983).

Peter Calvert, Guatemala: A Nation in Turmoil (1985).

Jean-Marie Simon, Guatemala: Eternal Spring, Eternal Tyranny (1987).

Additional Bibliography

Asturias Montenegro, G. Los 504 días de Ríos Montt. Guatemala: Gamma, 1995.

Soto Rosales, Carlos Rafael. El sueño encadenado: El proceso político guatemalteco, 1944–1999. Guatemala: Tipografía Nacional, 2002.

                              Virginia Garrard Burnett

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Ríos Montt, José Efraín (1926–)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Ríos Montt, José Efraín (1926–)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rios-montt-jose-efrain-1926

"Ríos Montt, José Efraín (1926–)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . Retrieved November 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rios-montt-jose-efrain-1926

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.