A Strongman Returns


BURYING THE PAST: Angry relatives carry the exhumed bodies of victims of the Guatemalan civil war

When General Efrain Rios Montt was Guatemala's military dictator from 1982 to 1983, during the bloodiest phase of a 36-year-long civil war, his army massacred Maya Indian peasants suspected of aiding leftist guerrillas. The throb of military helicopters above highlands villages was often followed by deafening automatic rifle fire. Tens of thousands died, and a federal genocide case is now pending against Ríos Montt in a Guatemalan court. Asked at the time about his "scorched-earth" strategy, Ríos Montt quipped, "We don't have a policy of scorched earth — we have a policy of scorched communists."

So it can...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!