Published online 15 May 2007.
This is a short diary about Jerry Falwell’s friendship with Efrain Rios Montt, genocidal dictator of Guatemala. Maybe Efrain Rios Montt will show up at Falwell’s funeral. Open question: what sort of “friends” were they?
According to one of the papers of record, Jerry Falwell was found dead today at the age of 73. How are we to remember Jerry Falwell?
Falwell, of course, was the founder of the Moral Majority. About them, the Times will admit:
In the 1980 election, the Moral Majority was credited with playing a role in Mr. Reagan’s election as president, and with affecting the outcome in dozens of Congressional races. The election reflected the potential influence of religious conservatives in politics, which both electrified religious conservatives and alarmed many others, who feared a movement of religious zealots voting en masse for the preachers’ designated candidates.
In the NYT article there is a short, vague discussion of Falwell’s successes and failures with the Moral Majority. It politicized religion, it was imitated by Karl Rove, it failed to “clean up television.” But that’s all on that.
One interesting fact about Falwell that escaped the New York Times’ notice is his friendship with genocidal Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt.
Rios Montt, for those who don’t know him, was the dictator of Guatemala for eighteen months, during which the Guatemalan Army waged a genocidal war against the Maya. Answers.com/Wikipedia tell us:
Ríos Montt is best known outside Guatemala for heading a military regime (1982–1983) that was responsible in some of the worst atrocities of Guatemala’s 36-year civil war. The war ended with a peace treaty in 1996. The civil war pitted left-wing rebel groups against the army, with huge numbers of Mayan campesinos caught in the crossfire. At least 200,000 Guatemalans were killed during the conflict, making it one of Latin America’s most violent wars in modern history.
The mainstream press always covers itself by using the passive voice whenever mentioning death: “At least 200,000 Guatemalans were killed.” Yeah, you can guess for yourselves who killed them. Uh, was it the side trained by the School of the Americas? As Global Exchange notes in its history of Guatemala:
The United States role throughout this time period was hardly illustrious. Despite the extreme and obvious repression, the U.S. continued to send massive military aid throughout most of the war. Even when such aid was temporarily suspended, arms and equipment supplies continued. The School of the Americas continued to train and graduate Guatemalan officers who became notorious for their human rights violations. Training manuals used clearly indicate practices which would violate human rights. Meanwhile, CIA officials worked closely with Guatemalan intelligence officers linked to death squad activities. Many such officers were on CIA payroll as “assets” or paid informants, despite their well known record for serious human right violations. The CIA, moreover, knowingly paid “assets” for information obtained through the use of kidnapping, torture and extrajudicial execution. Worse yet, it was not unusual for North Americans to enter areas where prisoners were being secretly detained and tortured, ask some questions, then leave the victims to their fates. The Red Cross, United Nations, police and family members were never notified.
There are plenty of references on the Web to Falwell’s friendship with this guy, this guy who wiped out so many people in such a short period of time. Rios Montt was probably better known to the researchers of religious right affairs as Pat Robertson’s buddy. From RightWatch’s page on the Christian Broadcasting Network:
Within a week of the 1982 coup which brought evangelical Gen. Efrain Rios Montt to power, Pat Robertson flew to Guatemala to meet with the new president. (28) Rios Montt’s first interview as president was with Robertson, who aired it on “The 700 Club” and praised the new military government. (14) Robertson also urged donations for International Love Lift, a relief project of Rios Montt’s U.S. church, Gospel Outreach. (28) Rios Montt said that Pat Robertson had offered to send missionaries and “more than a billion dollars” in aid from U.S. fundamentalists. Robertson, however, claimed that he hoped to match the earlier CBN donation of $350,000 in earthquake relief and send “a small team of medical and agricultural experts” to Guatemala. (14) CBN reportedly sponsored a campaign to send money and agricultural and medical technicians to help design the first model villages under Rios Montt. (4)
Anyone here know more about this sort of stuff? I really can’t say what-exactly Falwell did for Rios Montt, judging from what I can find, except that they “were friends.”