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COUP IN GUATEMALA!

by Quetzal Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2003 at 2:18 AM

The old Demons are waking up. The Constitutional Court makes it's decision... democracy is not worth a damn, a blood drenched tyrant stands in the wings. The vultures wait for their next meal. Stolen elections, the tale of the hemisphere, stacked courts, smiling Generals, body dumps, and U.S. aid. Somewhere in the forest a Quetzal sings a plaintive song.

Guatemalan Court Rules for Rios Montt

Mon, Jul 14, 2003

GUATEMALA CITY - Guatemala's highest court ruled Monday that former dictator Efrain Rios Montt can compete in November's presidential elections despite a law banning anyone who had ever seized power in a coup from running.

The decision angered some Guatemalans, because Rios Montt presided over some of the worst human rights abuses of Guatemala's 36-year civil war. He headed a 1982-83 military regime.

While legal reasoning behind the 4-3 decision by the Constitutional Court was not immediately made public, Rios Montt had argued that the ban on coup leaders, formalized in the 1985 Constitution, could not be applied retroactively to acts before that date.

"The appeal was granted, but three of our seven judges dissented," Justice Francisco Flores told local radio stations in announcing the verdict.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu described the court ruling as "a coup d'etat," suggesting Rios Montt's Guatemalan Republican Front party — which controls the presidency and enjoys a majority in Congress — had somehow co-opted the court.

"The Republican Front usurped the court, which is supposed to be the wellspring of morality, legality and constitutionality," Menchu said.

Republican Front officials applauded the decision.

"More than a victory for Gen. Rios Montt, this is a victory for the Guatemalan people," said Republican Front congressman Aristides Crespo. "This shows that only the Guatemalan people can choose their president, not four or ten or twelve lawyers."

On Saturday, Guatemala's second-highest court had ruled against Rios Montt.

Rios Montt took power in a military coup in March 1982, but was himself deposed in a military uprising 18 months later.

The Republican Front nominated the 77-year-old retired brigadier general in May, but his candidacy was rejected by the electoral registry and by two lower courts.

The constitutional court rejected Rios Montt's attempts to run for president in 1990 and in 1995. In 1999, he was elected head of the single-house legislature and helped his friend, Alfonso Portillo, win the presidency.

Many analysts had speculated that the constitutional court might decide in Rios Montt's favor because it is now stacked with the ex-general's and Portillo's allies.

Human rights groups say Rios Montt was among the bloodiest dictators in Latin American history. The 1960-96 civil war pitted leftist, largely Mayan guerrillas against the army and killed 200,000 Guatemalans. The war ended with a peace treaty in 1996.

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