EFRAIN RIOS MONTT, THE BORN-AGAIN GUA- temalan general whose 1982 coup turned him into Latin America's first evangelical head-of-state, is still a darling of the Christian Right, even though he established one of the worst human rights records in recent history. Following his ouster by coup in 1983, the usually centrist evangelical magazine Christianity Today argued that Rios Montt had been undeservedly libeled in the press, and the National Religious Broadcasters Associa- tion organized a speaking tour for the former dictator. "I think you can be a genuine missionary to the United States by coming and giving your testimony," NRB executive director Ben Armstrong told the General, who in 1984 appeared on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trinity Broadcasting Network, and on Jimmy Swaggart's pro- gram. In recent years Rios Montt and missionary Ronny Gilmore, of the California-based Verbo community, or- ganized "Operation Whole Armor." Armed with Bibles supplied by Bible Literature International of Ohio, they toured Guatemalan military bases to put a copy of the New Testament in the hands of 70,000 military, civil patrol, and police officers. "Operation Whole Armor" offers soldiers more than Bibles. "I've talked to soldiers who participated in this [war]," says Ronny Gilmore in a tape distributed to U.S. supporters last fall. "And they've shared with me the anguish in their hearts for these crimes that they commit- ted, and said many times it was in defense and many times that they were battling the Marxists. But many times they did not know whether they were killing these Marxist guerrillas or not. One soldier in particular was an evan- gelical and he said that he didn't know if God could Gen. Rios Montt on Pat Robertson's "700 Club" forgive him because he had taken children and their moth- ers and put them into a house and then set them on fire, under orders from the captain." After a dramatic pause, he continues. "I shared with him God's love for him and [told him] that he could be forgiven." According to Bible Literature International, Rios Montt is currently "smuggling" Bibles into Nicaragua, where Bibles are sold freely throughout the country.
Tags: Efrain Rios Montt, evangelical, Christian right, Guatemala