Twenty Years Too Late: Pat Robertson’s Dictator Buddy Arrested

As former Guatemalan dictator Rios Montt faces charges for manslaughter, conspiracy and threatening bodily harm in relation to the death of journalist Hector Ramirez, I look in vain for a word on CBN’s website. Montt, as is well known, enjoyed huge support from Pat Robertson back in 1982-3, despite massive human rights abuses and massacres of Mayan Quiche Indians. Montt is a Charismatic Protestant, and within a week of his coup in 1982 Robertson had flown down to meet him, promising a billion dollars and missionaries. Robertson raised cash for Montt on his “700 Club”, and lobbied Reagan to allow military aid to the country. He also provided an introduction to an apologetic for Montt and apparently wrote in his book New World Order (quoted second hand, I must confess) that Montt’s successor

continues the enlightened leadership of his patron, former President Rios Montt, who insisted on honesty in government and then had every key official sign a pledge that read, “I will not steal; I will not lie; I will not abuse.”

(this successor, Jorge Serrano Elias, was himself forced out after attempting to impose authoritarian rule in 1993)

Montt’s church is Verbo Ministries, which is still going strong in California and central America. Its one-time international director, Francisco Bianchi, was a presidential candidate in the 1999 election, standing for his own Democratic Reconciliatory Alliance party. Bianchi was Montt’s private secretary, and in one assessment was

one of the few candidates in this race who can be described as extreme right. At one point during Ríos Montt’s government, Bianchi told The New York Times that if the indigenous people sympathized with the guerrillas they had to be killed, even if they were civilians, a statement he now denies having made.

Although Bianchi’s impact was negligible, that election was won by Montt’s party, the Guatemalan Republican Front, under Alfonso Portillo. Montt himself came third in the 2003 election, despite being barred from office. The pro-Montt riots that followed his defeat, and the death of Ramirez leading up to it, suggest that, unlike Charles Taylor of Liberia, this friend of Pat Robertson remains a menace to his country.

Shekarau Snubs Vaccine Advice

As variants of polio traceable to Kano in Northern Nigeria (see my post here) continue to be found across West Africa, Governor Ibrahim Shekarau has offered a long and rambling defence of his continued boycotting of polio vaccines. Several days ago, the federal government sent a committee to South Africa and India to investigate the issue. The committee discovered that

a) Trace amounts of estradiol were found in some samples analysed…The sensitivity of this equipment is very high to the level of one part in a hundred billion parts.

(b) No trace of progesterone was detected in any of the vaccine samples.

(c) The trace amounts of estradiol in question is much less than what is found in recycled drinking water in several developed countries. Also calf blood (serum) is used to help the growth of the polio virus during the production process for OPV by some production centres. These trace levels of estradiol might very well be physiological residues from serum.

Therefore, they concluded, the vaccine was safe. The results were explained to Shekarau by the chairman of the committee, Sheik Umar El-Kanemi.

However, Shekarau is still not having it. He insists that the investigators did discover “contamination”, but also that the vaccine declared safe was “different”. Also, bizarrely:

I challenge the committee put up by the federal government to south Africa, to India. They put a representation of Jama’atul Nnasril Islam, JNI, I say where is the representation of CAN [Christian Association of Nigeria].

This is priceless. Shekarau’s whole argument was that the vaccine was a plot to make Muslim women infertile. But now Muslim investigators have told him this is bunk, he’s suddenly decided that Christians were not given adequate say in the investigation, and that therefore the boycott should stay in place.

Shekarau has now decided to import vaccines from Muslim countries in Asia rather than take part in the government programme. Why this continual intransigence? I thought paranoia, but Nigerian President Obasanjo offers another possible explanation in a TV interview, where he claimed that

one of the Muslim leaders opposing the immunisation programme had unsuccessfully sought a government contract to import new vaccines.

Ahh, of course. The old adage about asking who’s going to profit…

UPDATE: See here.