|Julio César Méndez Montenegro|
President of Guatemala
July 1, 1966 – July 1, 1970
|Chancellor||Emilio Arenales Catalán|
|Preceded by||Enrique Peralta Azurdia|
|Succeeded by||Colonel Carlos Arana Osorio|
November 23, 1915|
Guatemala City Guatemala
|Died||April 30, 1996
Guatemala City Guatemala
|Spouse(s)||Sara de la Hoz|
|Parents||Marcial Méndez and Mélida Montenegro|
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.
"White Terror" and paramilitarism
The repression that began to take shape under the presidency of Enrique Peralta Azurdia 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.
In March 1966, thirty PGT associates were kidnapped, tortured, and killed by the security forces. This was one of the first major instances of forced disappearance in Latin American history. These 30 disappearances marked the beginning of a dramatic increase of state repression in 1966. When law students at the University of San Carlos used legal measures (such as habeas corpus petitions) to require the government to present the detainees at court, some of the students were "disappeared" in turn.
In exchange for military support of his administration, President Mendez authorized the armed forces to use "any means necessary" to suppress the insurgency. No longer bound to the rule of law, the security forces resorted to terror to control the population and dismantle the civilian support base of the insurgency. Guatemalan government forces killed or "disappeared" thousands of civilians during the escalation of the counterinsurgency. The repression was most intense in the eastern regions where the MR-13 operated, and in Guatemala City where the PGT operated. In eastern Guatemala, government forces engaged in the massacre of civilians and destruction of peasant communities as a means of breaking up guerrilla bases.
Following the inauguration of Méndez Montenegro, he appointed Colonel Rafael Arriaga Bosque to Defense Minister. Mendez activated the 'Special Commando Unit of the Guatemalan Army' (SCUGA). The SCUGA was placed under the command of Colonel Máximo Zepeda in January 1967, after which point it assumed command over most of the Guatemalan government's urban counterinsurgency operations against PGT. Composed of both military and civilian personnel, the SCUGA functioned both as a counter-terror apparatus and as an intelligence-gathering apparatus. SCUGA commandos routinely carried out abductions, bombings, street assassinations, torture, "disappearances" and executions of both documented and suspected communists. The SCUGA often collaborated with the Fourth Corps of the Guatemalan National Police, which carried out similar activities. Together these forces often carried out various counter-terror and counter-insurgency operations under the guise of fictitious paramilitary death squads and anti-communist front organizations (known by acronyms such as the NOA, CADEG, CRAG and RAYO). In addition to engaging in operations under the guise of para-militarism, the SCUGA nominally worked with paramilitary death squads such as the infamous Mano Blanca ("White Hand").
Some observers referred to the policy of the Guatemalan government as "White Terror" -a term previously used to describe similar periods of anti-communist mass killing in countries such as Taiwan and Spain- Observers estimate that as many as 15,000 Guatemalans were killed by the military and government-led death squads in three years of Mendez's presidency. The victims included guerrilla sympathizers, labor union leaders, intellectuals, students, and vaguely defined "enemies of the government."
The government's use of "any means necessary" resulted in the opposition increasing its level of resistance to ensure its survival. The "White Terror" (which led to the destruction of the FAR's ladino peasant base in the eastern provinces) caused the MR-13 to retreat to Guatemala City. There, the MR-13 began to engage in selective killings of members of the security forces as well as U.S. military advisors. The insurgents assassinated the American ambassador to Guatemala, John Gordon Mein, in 1968, and the German ambassador to Guatemala, Karl Von Spreti, in 1970.
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 "Butcher of Zacapa" or "Jackal of the East."
- Stedman 2002, p. 426.
- Time 1968, p. 23.
- Doyle & Osorio 2013.
- McClintock 1985, pp. 82-83.
- CIA 1967.
- US State Department 1967, p. 2.
- US Department of State 1967, p. 1.
- Torres Rivas 1980, p. 19.
- Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos 2014.
- Paige 1983, pp. 699-737.
- CIA (November 1967). "Special Commando Unit of the Guatemalan Army - SCUGA". CIA, secret information report. National Security Archive Electronic (George Washington University: National Security Archive). Briefing Book No. 11.
- Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (19 June 2014). "Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights & Law Program". Shr.aaas.org. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
- McClintock, Michael (1985). "State Terror and Popular Resistance in Guatemala". The American Connection 2. London, UK: Zed.
- Paige, Jeffery M. (1983). "Social Theory and Peasant Revolution in Vietnam and Guatemala". Theory and Society 12 (6): 699–737. doi:10.1007/BF00912078.
- Torres Rivas, Edelberto (1980). "Guatemala: Crisis and Political Violence". NACLA Report on the Americas. 14-18 (January–February). North American Congress on Latin America.
- US Department of State (23 October 1967). Guatemala: A Counter-Insurgency Running Wild?. National Security Archive Electronic. Briefing Book No. 32. George Washington University: National Security Archive. p. 1.
- US State Department (1967). "Guatemala". Assignment terror: The Army's Special Unit. National Security Archive Electronic. Briefing Book No. George Washington University: National Security Archive.
|President of Guatemala