Guatemala's Candidate from Hell

The indictment describes brutal crimes--mass murders, rapes, and the dislocation of hundreds of thousands of people--carried out systematically in the Guatemalan highlands.

In San Martín Jilotepeque, villagers were rounded up by Guatemala's military, forced to cook for soldiers and dig pits in the earth. Later, their masters shot and then dumped them into the pits. In Santa María Nebaj, children were shot or beaten to death before being thrown into a ravine that also served as an open-air outhouse. After the massacre, soldiers burned the bodies and the houses of their victims. They killed and ate their livestock.

The man that Guatemalan human rights organizations charge with responsibility for these acts is Efraín Ríos Montt, ruler of Guatemala during the "scorched earth" campaign of the early 1980's. Given the gravity of the accusations, and the abundance of evidence against him, Ríos Montt should be on his way to prison. Instead, he could be headed to the presidency.

Against great odds--and the wording of Guatemala's Constitution--the former brigadier general and dictator has qualified for the ballot in Guatemala's presidential election, set for November 9.