Democracy Now! Headshot

The Video Guatemala's President Doesn't Want You To See

Posted: Updated:
Print

In 1982, investigative journalist Allan Nairn interviewed a Guatemalan general nicknamed "Tito" on camera during the height of the indigenous massacres. It turns out the man was actually Otto Pérez Molina, the current president of Guatemala. Democracy Now! airs the original video interview footage and speak to Nairn about the U.S. role backing the Guatemalan dictatorship. Nairn was scheduled to testify this week in the genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt.

Nairn flew to Guatemala for the Ríos Montt trial after he was called to testify. But at the last minute, Nairn was kept off the stand "in order," he was told, "to avoid a confrontation" with the president -- General Pérez Molina -- and for fear that if he took the stand, military elements might respond with violence. "They knew that I could implicate Pérez Molina further, because I had met him in the highlands during the massacres when he was operating under a code name, and I interviewed soldiers under his commands who described how under orders they executed and tortured civilians," Nairn says.

Here's an excerpt of the transcript:

DEMOCRACY NOW! HOST AMY GOODMAN: This is a huge charge. I mean, right now, it's an historic trial when it's 25 years after a past president is now being charged. Let's go to a clip of Otto Pérez Molina, the current president of Guatemala, but this is 1982 in the heartland area of Quiché in northwest Guatemala, northwest of Guatemala City. In this video clip, Otto Pérez Molina is seen reading from political literature found on one of the bodies. This is your interview with him.

MAYOR OTTO PÉREZ MOLINA: [translated] "The poor artisan fights alongside the worker. The poor peasant fights alongside the worker. The wealth is produced by us, the poor. The army takes the poor peasants. Together, we have an invincible force. All the families are with the guerrilla, the guerrilla army of the poor, toward final victory forever." These are the different fronts that they have.

ALLAN NAIRN: [translated] So here they are saying that the army killed some people.

MAYOR OTTO PÉREZ MOLINA: [translated] Exactly.

Click here to watch the full 35-minute interview with reporter Allan Nairn.