A former Guatemalan dictator earned an awful place in history yesterday when he became the first former head of state convicted of genocide in his own country, reports the BBC. A court sentenced 86-year-old Efrain Rios Montt to 50 years for genocide and another 30 years for crimes against humanity, reports Reuters. Rios Montt ruled for less than two years in 1982-83, but he was accused of letting his military orchestrate the mass killings, rape, and torture of indigenous villagers viewed as supporters of leftist rebels.
Cries of "Justicia!" broke out inside and outside the courtroom in Guatemala City as the verdict was read. The trial specifically held Rios Montt responsible for 1,771 deaths of the Maya Ixil indigenous group, but far more were killed during his reign, which came during the bloodiest part of the nation's 36-year civil war, says AP. Most of the coverage, including that in the New York Times, is resurrecting a quote from Ronald Reagan calling Rios Montt "man of great personal integrity and commitment.” Reagan saw Rios Montt as an ally in the fight against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua.