Guatemala: protests condemn annulment of Rios Montt trial, while ex-president Portillo extradited to US

In Guatemala City and throughout Latin America today, protests are taking place to condemn the Guatemalan Constitutional Court's decision this week to effectively throw out the trial of Ríos Montt.

On May 10, the former US-backed general was found guilty, and sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity. But just ten days later, the historic trial was overturned when the nation's highest court voted 3-2 to uphold complaints put forth by Rios Montt's attorneys.

While legal proceedings will continue, most agree that the trial has been effectively destroyed. Indigenous people throughout Guatemala, and their supporters, are outraged.

The protests happen on the same day that another disgraced former Guatemalan president, Alfonso Portillo, is being extradited to the United States where he will face trial in a Manhattan court on US money laundering charges, filed against him in 2010.

The former president is accused of using financial institutions in the United States to launder more than $70 million.

Photo: El Periodico. Guatemalan Police escorting Portillo to the airport, where he will be extradited to the US on money laundering charges.

During his 2000-2004 presidency, Portillo represented the FRG party founded by Rios Montt, and was allied with the former general for many years.

In an interview with a Guatemalan radio network today, Portillo described his extradition as "a kidnapping."

For the most part, word of today's protests around the genocide trial has been spreading through social networks: Facebook, the smartphone texting service WhatsApp, Twitter, and more traditional communication networks within indigenous communities. Most people in Guatemala are poor, and because of their poverty, aren't very internet-connected. For them, text messages, phone calls, and word shared in town squares is how news of protests spreads.

From the sound of it, today is shaping up to be a significant day in Guatemala.

A few of the protest "signs" circulating online are below.

More coverage in our Guatemala archives.