“Same as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ronald Reagan and his people, Schachtmanite goons like Elliott Abrams, turning Central America into a slaughterhouse all to play out their little anti-Communist fantasies. Guatemala by then had fallen under the control of a mass murderer and particular buddy of Reagan named Ríos Montt, who as usual wiped off his bloody hands on the baby Jesus like so many of these characters do. Government death squads funded by the U.S., army sweeps through the western highlands, officially targeting the EP or Guerilla Army of the Poor but in practice exterminating any native populations they came across. There was at least one death camp, on the Pacific coast, where the emphasis may have been political, but up in the hills it was onsite genocide, not even mass burial, jus bodies left for the jungle to take care of, which certainly must have saved the government a lot on cleanup costs.” (p. 170)
Pynchon’s historical reference in this passage alludes to the notorious Efraín Ríos Montt, former de facto President of Guatemala, dictator, army general and former president of Congress. This is brought up by March at the end of Chapter 15, after Maxine asks her about what happened in Guatemala back in 1982.
Ríos Montt came to public office through a coup d’état on March 23, 1982. Angered by the rigged victory of Ángel Aníbal Guevara, widely accused of fraudulent behavior by opposition parties, in the 1982 election, Montt with the support of his fellow soldiers disposed of the leaders in place and assumed control of Guatemala by means of a military junta. With the junta in power and Ríos Montt at the head, the Guatemalan Constitution was suspended, legislature was shut down, and a campaign against political dissidents ensued. This brutal campaign included kidnappings, torture, and extrajudicial assassinations; interestingly however this coup was well received by the rest of the world.
President Reagan’s support of Ríos Montt and the military junta due to their anti-communist ideals was widely publicized. Reagan was quoted, “President Ríos Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment. … I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice. My administration will do all it can to support his progressive efforts”. Perhaps it was the vote-rigging and blatant corruption of the previous regime that led to such approval, however it is obvious now that Montt was just as evil with a bodycount of over 200,000 Guatemalans. Worse is the fact that us as the civil, peacekeeping America that we claim to be, not only supported this genocide of the Guatemalan peoples but we also provided the military hardware and supplies essential to the murdering of these people.
It is important, then, to note that it is March’s character in the novel that makes this historical reference. March is a character that is always seeking justice, and her crusade to reveal the truth through her Weblog is a defining characteristic. Historical references that shed light on the mistakes we have made in the past are essential for developing March as a character. One of the first times March is introduced to the reader is during her Kugelblitz speech, where she tells us the story of the woman who holds on to all the trash of the city in her claim that ‘we must not forget’ what has happened. Throughout the novel we begin to see this foreshadows March’s role, as the woman who never forgets. March brings up the Guatemalan atrocities that we were responsible for, but many have forgotten about.
“Efraín Ríos Montt” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 1 Feb. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efra%C3%ADn_R%C3%ADos_Montt
“Monster Efraín Ríos Montt” Examiner. Examiner.com, Web. 23 Feb. 2015.http://www.examiner.com/article/monster-efra-n-r-os-montt
“Chapter 15” Thomas Pynchon Wiki. HyperArts, 30 Apr. 2014. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.http://bleedingedge.pynchonwiki.com/wiki/index.php?title=Chapter_15