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Julio César Méndez Montenegro (November 23, 1915 – April 30, 1996) was the Revolutionary Party President of Guatemala from 1 July 1966 to 1 July 1970. Mendez was elected on a platform promising democratic reforms and the curtailment of military power. The only civilian to occupy Guatemala's presidency during the long period of military rule between 1954 and 1986, Méndez was not allowed to act independently of the military and was widely considered to be a military puppet; Mendez had assumed the presidency under a pact in July, 1966 that gave the armed forces carte blanche with respect to internal security matters and an effective veto over governmental policy. He was the first cousin of César Montenegro Paniagua whose kidnapping, torture and murder during the Julio César Méndez presidency is rumored to have been undertaken with presidential sanction.
It was during the Mendez presidency that the United States dramatically expanded its military mission in Guatemala. Within days of Mendez taking office, US Colonel John Webber Jr. was dispatched to the country to assist in modernizing Guatemala's counterinsurgency apparatus. Under Colonel Webber's command, the United States expanded training within Guatemala's 5,000-man army and outfitted the Guatemalan security forces with the most modern counterinsurgency equipment available. The United States also assisted the Guatemalan security forces in the implementation and use of counter-terrorism, and the establishment of counter-terror units under the supervision of U.S. police advisors. With increased US military support, the Guatemalan Army launched a counter-insurgency campaign that successfully combated and dispersed the left-wing guerrilla organizations fighting in the mountains and country. The guerrillas, including the Rebel Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes — FAR), then concentrated their attacks in Guatemala City, assassinating many leading representatives of the military government, U.S. military advisors, and the American ambassador John Gordon Mein, in 1968.
It was during the Mendez presidency that the systematic use of state-terrorism became widespread. The repression that began to take shape under the presidency of Enrique Peralta began to intensify under Mendez. With the onset of the Guatemalan army's first major anti-guerrilla offensive, the army and security forces carried out widespread extrajudicial killing, torture and forced disappearances. The repression was most intense in the southeastern region of the country, particularly in the department of Zacapa, under the command of Colonel Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio. The Guatemalan army, under the command of Colonel Arana, is estimated to have killed as many as 15,000 unarmed peasants to eliminate fewer than 300 Marxist guerrillas, earning Arana the nickname "Butcherer of Zacapa."
- Stedman, 2002; 426.[full citation needed]
- Time, 26 January 1968, p. 23.
- Paige, Jeffery M. (1983). "Social Theory and Peasant Revolution in Vietnam and Guatemala". Theory and Society 12 (6): 699–737. doi:10.1007/BF00912078.
|President of Guatemala