|The story is simply told:|
|This is the account of pastor Clemente Díaz Aguilar, who was mistakenly detained and tortured in Guatemala during January 1983, by government forces. Aguilar was an evangelical pastor, and as such, considered friendly to the then Ríos Montt regime, but then mistakes will happen.
On March 23, 1982 a clique of young Guatemalan army officers mounted a coup d'etait that overthrew the then Guatemalan junta. The victors chose general Efraín Ríos Montt as their president. Montt had been corruptly denied the presidency in 1974, despite winning a clear election victory and this may have influenced his 1977 conversion to Protestant pentacostalism which was drawn to his attention by a missionary and aid organisation called "Gospel Outreach". Certainly becoming head of Gospel Outreach's Guatemalan Verbo Church cannot have entirely compensated for a lost presidency, but here was a second chance.
The first born-again president of Guatemala had entered office in a largely Roman Catholic country. With fitting zeal, Montt's first act was to suspend the constitution. [ref 2].
Ríos Montt dissolved the junta and pledged to root out corruption, dissolve the death squads, and end the guerrilla war. Unfortunately the new leader failed to follow through on his promises and conditions in Guatemala worsened. Ríos Montt's economic policies were not effective, and the political violence that he had promised to end was soon renewed with even greater intensity, forcing many peasants (mostly indigenous indians) to flee into Mexico and driving others into guerrilla camps. This only served to add fuel to the guerrilla war. A born-again protestant in a largely Roman Catholic country, Ríos Montt had trouble explaining his vision, though the army understood his message all too well:
Earlier, in June 1982, Ríos Montt's aide and Gospel Outreach elder, Francisco Bianchi had visited the United States for a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador to the Organsiation of American States (OAS), William Middendorf, the then presidential counselor Edwin Meese, Interior Secretary James Watt, and U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Fred Chapin. Also present were the influential Christian leaders Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, along with Loren Cunningham, leader of Youth with a Mission.
Clearly the fundamentalist religious leaders of the United States approved of Montt, and would do everything in their not inconsiderable power to assist him. They believed Montt to be that rarest of things: a True Christian. Did Gospel Outreach know of the death and torture the Montt junta perpetrated? They would have had to be blind not to have known, and given the undeniable link between the Gospel Outreach Verbo Church and some of the members of the death and torture squads (noted by pastor Clemente Díaz Aguilar when he reported his mistaken abduction and torture). Perhaps they thought that you cannot make an omlette without breaking eggs, or usher in the Kingdom of Heaven without breaking a few heads.
Once Montt was deposed, the attitude didn't change. In March 1984, National Religious Broadcasters executive director Ben Armstrong organised a speaking tour for the former president. Montt as hailed as a missionary to the United States by Armstrong, and the tour included appearances on the "700 Club, " Jimmy Swaggarts programme, the Trinity Broadcasting Network amongst others.
Perhaps these gentlemen agreed with the Verbo pastor who saw indians as demons and didn't really care what happened to them; after all, demons are not human, so where's the harm?