Last week, Guatemala finally made international headlines for something positive. Former President Efraín Ríos Montt, who was president only from 1982-83 but still managed to was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity during his term. Mr. Montt is said to have “ordered his troops to rape, torture, and murder thousands of indigenous Maya.” While the 80 year prison sentence is unlikely to be too binding on the 86 year old general, it is a really a landmark conviction for the Guatemalan judiciary and hopefully a sign of things to come there.
Then, in more positive news, Jorge Videla, ex-dictator and leader of the Argentine ‘Dirty War,’ died in prison for his crimes against humanity. This got me wondering what the status was of other Latin American strongmen. Helpfully, I found this article, called “Latin America’s ‘rogues’ gallery of ex-leaders.” It provides a great list of those that remain:
Argentina: Reynaldo Bignone: Now 85, the last head of Argentina’s 1976-1983 military junta was sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity in 2011. He is serving his sentence in a regular prison.
Bolivia: Luis Garcia Meza: One of the early “narco-dictators,” Garcia Meza was sentenced to 30 years prison in 1995 for abuses committed during his 1980-1981 rule. He is serving time at a Bolivian maximum security prison.
Chile: Manuel Contreras: Augusto Pinochet, who ran the country from 1973-1990, escaped justice despite a flurry of legal cases and died in 2006. However, Contreras, the head of his feared secret police, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in murders and abductions during Pinochet’s rule.
Haiti: Jean-Claude Duvalier: Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier ruled Haiti from 1971 until he was overthrown in a popular revolt in 1986. Now 61, he returned from exile in France two years ago and faces charges of corruption and human rights abuses.
Panama: Manuel Noriega: Overthrown by US forces in 1989, Noriega served time in US and French prisons until he was returned to Panama in December 2011, where he is serving three 20-year prison sentences for those killed during his 1983-1989 rule.
Peru: Alberto Fujimori: Peru’s President 1990-2000, Fujimori was convicted of human rights violations for abuses committed during his crackdown on leftist guerrillas in 2009. He is serving a 25 year prison sentence in an specially built prison at a Lima police station.
Francisco Morales Bermudez: This ex-general is known for ousting Juan Velasco (1968-1975) from power and returning Peru to democracy in 1980. However last year an Argentine judge accused Morales Bermudez, now 91, of being part of Operation Condor, a scheme in which regional dictators helped hunt down each other’s opponents. Morales Bermudez rejected the accusation and faces no charges in Peru.
Uruguay: Gregorio Alvarez: The ex-dictator (1981-1985) was sentenced to a quarter century prison in 2009 on charges of “especially aggravated homicide” that took place within the framework of Operation Condor.