2013-2014 Human Rights Film Series


The first installation of the 2013-2014 Human Rights Film Series is upon us.  On Wednesday September 11, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator will be shown in the Konovar Auditorium at the Dodd Research Center from 4-7pm.  This award winning documentary (often promoted on this blog) provides rich context for the recently scrutinized trial of Guatemalan General Rios Montt.  The film will be followed by a discussion with expert forensic anthropologist Dr. Victoria Sanford of the Lehman Center for Human Rights and Peace Studies.

Details can be found on Events Calender






Rios Montt does the Pinochet


10 May 2013:

Over thirty years after the Scorched Earth campaign by the military and death squads in Guatemala, General Efrain Rios Montt is convicted of genocide committed against the Mayan’s of the Ixil region.  Like the notorious Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, Montt (86 years old) was brought to trial late in life – however, the distinction of having been forced into the courtroom, despite legal defense attempting to waylay the inevitable, is what stands between the two notorious figureheads.  Montt’s sentence of 80 years in prison stands as a penalty for the crime versus a punishment he can withstand.  This precedent setting national conviction will serve as a warning to both heads of state and top ranking military officials that impunity, even in the most stratified of countries, can be challenged.        

Filmmakers Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis (When the Mountains Tremble and Granito) were on hand for both the filming of the trial as well as witnessing their own footage used as evidence in the closing remarks against Montt.  A great collection of daily summaries from the trial can be seen in their ongoing film series Dictator in the Docket.  Though the conviction has happened, the greivances still exist for the crimes committed in Guatemala.  With this piece of history, a social dialogue can begin to unpack the roots of an extermination campaign against indigenous peoples and their corresponding position in society today.

Guatemalan Criminal Tribunal Begins


From the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission:

In Guatemala today, Efraín Ríos Montt and José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez are going to trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for massacres committed against indigenous civilians in Guatemala’s Ixil triangle. This historic case is the first time that a former head of state is being tried for genocide in a domestic court. It is crucial for the nation’s healing process, and will be a key step in ending impunity for the atrocities committed during the war.”

The trial of these major military leaders is an important attempt by human rights defenders and victims to bring those still able to stand trial to justice.  The crimes commited against those who lost life and loved ones to the Guatemalan state’s coordinated terror campaign form a seminal era in Cold War history.  The targeted killing of indigenous peoples across Central America in the name of fighting communism on the US’s dime lays bare the implications of imperialism, indigeneity and land use in a stratified third world country of the 1980s.

Follow the trial monitoring blog organized by the Open Society Justice Initiative!  To access video resources relating to Guatemala’s indigenous struggle, two important films are available in Babbidge library: When the Mountains Tremble, and Granito: How to Nail a Dictator. For a comprehensive archival collection, the Guatemalan Documentation Project coordinated by the National Security Archive contains key documents that will be utilized in the trial.

Idle No More

On December 10th, mass actions were coordinated across Canada by Indigenous peoples and allies to challenge the Harper government’s neglect of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit issues. The pervasive resource extraction on native lands, stifling poverty and mortality rates on reserves and ongoing indifference to treaty rights by the Harper administration are the major focal points for agitation. This continued movement, self named Idle No More, represents all First nations, Inuit, Metis, and allies of every shade who seek to decolonize not just the political landscape but the forms of protest as well. From Victoria, BC to Montreal, QB and solidarity actions from LA to London, the possibilities for grass roots actions ranging from Flash Mobs to teach-ins has enabled a broad array of people to engage the movement’s call for everyday resistance. The issues facing Indigenous peoples have always been a part of Canada’s nation building and myth making, just as they are in the United States and the Americas. Further to the point for archives, the ongoing attempt at gathering and recording the human rights abuses of the church and state in the past through Indian Residential Schools will remain a disembodied historical corpse as long as the Canadian government, and large swaths of the settler population, continue to ignore the past’s clutch on the colonized present.  What better way to make good on the apology issued by Harper before parliament than to present some truth and reconciliation by addressing how the current “institution neglects and abuses” those of the generations after residential schools.  How tar sands, pipelines, damming and mining operations will ensure the destruction of the ecosystem.  How incarceration rates of Indigenous peoples is nine times greater than the national average.  How the ongoing disassociation of urban population to rural land grows with each economic deregulation venture. 

Nigamo Pejig!      

UConn Archives & Special Collections, on Algonquin land, has a wide array of materials relating to struggles of Native Peoples throughout the 20th century in our radical Alternative Press Collection.