Croft News
March 3, 2014

Croft Visiting Speaker: Genocide and Justice in Guatemala

Monday, March 3 - Joseph C. Bancroft Conference Room (Croft 107) - 7 p.m.
Dr. Elizabeth Oglesby, the University of Arizona

In 2013, former General José Efraín Ríos Mont, Guatemala's de facto head of state from 1982-1983, was arrested in Guatemala City and charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. This was an international precedent: it marked one of the first times a national court had arrested, indicted and shown intent to prosecute one of its own former heads of state for genocide. Ríos Mont was initially found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, but his conviction quickly overturned and the retrial remains at an impasse.  The passions raised both against Ríos Mont and in his defense reveal the fault lines in Guatemalan society and the difficulty of dealing with a past interpreted by different people in very different ways.

Based on years of experience in Guatemala, Elizabeth Oglesby will offer an account of state violence in Guatemala and the long march through the justice institutions toward accountability for mass atrocity. This talk focuses on what is at stake in prosecuting genocide: the role of transnational justice activism within diverse socio-legal landscapes shaped by networks of power; the complexities of collective memories of violence; and the persistence of conflict within "post-war" societies.

Elizabeth Oglesby is Associate Professor of Geography and Latin American Studies at the University of Arizona. She has worked in Guatemala since 1986, conducting research on the aftermath of counterinsurgency in Maya regions, and on post-war politics and development. From 1997-1999, she was a researcher with the Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification (Truth Commission), and in April 2013 she was an expert witness in the genocide trial of former General Efraín Ríos Montt. She is co-editor of The Guatemala Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Duke University Press, 2011), as well as numerous articles on Latin American development politics, historical memory, and transitional justice.