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Terror in the Land of the Holy SpiritGuatemala Under General Efrain Rios Montt, 1982-1983$
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Virginia Garrard-Burnett

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195379648

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195379648.001.0001

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Ríos Montt and the New Guatemala

Ríos Montt and the New Guatemala

(p.53) 3 Ríos Montt and the New Guatemala
Terror in the Land of the Holy Spirit

Virginia Garrard‐Burnett

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the language, images, and discourses that General Ríos Montt employed to promote his war of counterinsurgency. While the military’s war of counterinsurgency forcibly pacified the largely indigenous highlands (a campaign that some sources claim produced nearly 50 percent of the civilian deaths that occurred over the course of Guatemala’s thirty‐six‐year armed struggle), Ríos Montt captivated much of Guatemala’s urban and nonindigenous population through his anticorruption campaign and his Sunday sermons — weekly broadcast messages that stressed anticommunism and government loyalty against a backdrop of evangelical language and imagery. This chapter provides an analysis of the sermons and offers an attempt to explain and contextualize Ríos Montt’s political popularity, as he sought to establish order and a fresh ideology for what he called the New Guatemala. This chapter is based almost exclusively on transcripts of Ríos Montt’s Sunday sermons and on newspaper clippings from the period.

Keywords:   Ríos Montt, Sunday sermon, nationalism, messianism, Pentecostal, evangelical, New Guatemala, counterinsurgency

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