I stumbled onto a fascinating article about Zury Rios Sosa, the daughter of indicted war criminal Efrain Rios Montt, the former evangelical dictator of Guatemala in the Chicago Reader (see it here: http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/jerryweller) who is married to Congressman Jerry Weller. The article focuses on drug trafficking and the potential conflicts of interest stemming from the relationship and Weller’s work in Congress on the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House. It notes that he has studiously avoided saying anything about the deteriorating security and public safety situation in Guatemala or really anything at all about the country.
Many may see this as a congressman wisely distancing himself from a potential conflict of interest, since, well, he is sleeping with the 3rd in command and chief public spokesperson (think Roy Blount or Charles Schumer) of the largest opposition party in Guatemala. Perhaps. There is a quote, buried at the end of the article that offers an alternative explanation. Carlos Gomez, who works for the Foundation for Human Rights in Guatemala says this: “it is the FRG (Rios’ party) that opened the door to drug trafficking and organized crime in Guatemala. So he can’t attack the same party as his wife.”
The line from the generals, colonels, and other officers who perpetuated the genocide of the 1980s in Guatemala to the leaders of the drug gangs, kidnapping crews, and murder for hire syndicates of the new century is about as straight as Lance Bass is not. The FRG, Rios Montt’s personal vehicle for political party, is neck deep into the booming drug trafficking economy in Guatemala, so much so that the FRG’s president, Alfonso Portillo, was opposed by both liberal and conservatives in Guatemala, a rather unusual political occurrence. For better or for worse (in sickness and in health…) Weller has entered the world of the Guatemalan mafia.
Admittedly, these are strong accusations, and in the absence of footnotes or official sanction, they seem a bit farfetched. For a large proportion of educated Guatemalans, the information presented here is taken as point of fact, much like we in the US take for granted the political power and connectedness of the Bush or Kennedy family. One incident is illustrative. Violence against women has reached epidemic proportions in Guatemala City. Before a march against this violence in 2005, unknown assailants killed a woman and cut up her body in a number of pieces and placed the pieces along the route the march was to take in a grotesque carbon copy of the military regime’s intimidation tactics of the past.
It may seem unfair to accuse Zury Rios of being a narcolady. At the very least, (and its not a little) she was, is, and potentially will continue to be, the chief dissembler and apologist for her father. Rios Montt is a fascist with a messianic complex that would make even the most ardent neo-conservative democracy promoter blush. By all accounts, he is so convinced of his own righteousness and indispensability to the nation of Guatemala that laws put up in his path are regarded as biblical trials and tribulations that the righteous man must overcome. The article in the Reader only hints at Zury’s defense of and advocacy for her father during the shameful riots (known as Black Thursday in Guatemala) engineered by the FRG to force the courts to allow Rios Montt to run in spite of the law prohibiting him from doing so. Zury was the screeching apologist for the mobs of paid, manipulated, angry, drunk “protestors” who were part of an attempt to gain the election for Rios Montt by re-creating the atmosphere of fear the pervaded the country during the 1980s and 1990s. Zury was her father’s Goebbels, using the airwaves to attempt to build up the atmosphere of fear and anxiety that would translate into a win for her father. It didn’t work. Guatemalans refused to give into fear (as many of them would say to interviewers after voting) and Rios Montt is finally finished as a political force in Guatemala.
It is my suspicion, reinforced by a missionary friend who has been close to Rios Montt and his family for years, that the old man is a dottering figurehead who has no real day to day control or input into the FRG machinations. This makes Zury Rios’ role in the deteriorating situation in Guatemala potentially even more nefarious and makes Weller either look naïve or complicit.
The controversy surrounding this political marriage goes beyond the usual “conflict of interest” line pursued by the Reader article. Weller’s greatest act of public service may be that of turning American interest towards the FRG, Zury Rios, and the mess they are making of the land of the eternal spring.