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I am a contributing writer, freelance reporter and blogger for The Christian Science Monitor. I reported during Guatemala’s election, volcano eruptions and Efraín Rios Montt’s trial, which was the first time any domestic court tried someone on genocide in the world.
From Texas last week, I tuned in to the trial of Guatemala’s former-dictator Efraín Ríos Montt as he was sentenced to 80 years in prison and heaved a tearful sigh of relief. His sentence – the maximum in Guatemala – came 12 years after the case was initially filed with the Inter-American Court in Spain. And it was long-awaited: Mr. Ríos Montt’s 18 months as Guatemala’s dictator, is considered the bloodiest of the country’s entire civil war. His trial was the first time any domestic court has tried someone on genocide in the world. When I called my mother in Florida to share the news she didn’t miss a beat: “Por fin ese viejo se va a la carcel, donde se merece estar.” At last, that old man is in jail, where he deserves to be.
A right-wing retired military general in Guatemala promising to use an “iron fist” to wrest control of the country from criminals has taken the lead in the country’s presidential race. With 90 percent of ballots counted, Otto Perez Molina of the Patriot Party captured 36 percent of votes. His margin of victory shows a wearied public seeking stability, but he did not garner enough support to avoid a run-off. He will face businessman Manuel Baldizon, who won 23 percent of the vote, in a run-off in an early November, according to preliminary results. Eduardo Suger finished third place, ahead of seven additional candidates, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu on the left. She captured just 3 percent of votes.
Guatemalans received a scare on the eve of their Independence Day celebrations. The Volcano of Fire, Fuego, had its strongest eruption since 1974 on Thursday leading to the evacuation of around 6,500 people, according to CONRED, the Guatemalan disaster agency. Close to 900 people are in shelters after the eruption created massive plumes of smoke and ash that could be seen from Guatemala City and neighboring UNESCO heritage city La Antigua, both less than 46 miles away.
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