The mechanism for reviving the genocide trial of Rios Montt is and has to be political. Technical legal merits have less than almost nothing to do with it.
The outside judicial decision that was the instrument for stopping the trial just short of verdict has been laughed out of court by every serious legal expert who has examined it.
Where to go from here is the choice of the President, General Perez Molina, the institutional army and the death-squad oligarchs. It's a good bet that at this writing they have not yet reached a full decision.
On the one hand, by killing the case they get to revel in untouchability. They think they get to say, as their slogan goes, "In Guatemala there was no genocide," to hand out bumper stickers, like this morning, saying "I love the Guatemalan army," and to say, with Rios Montt's daughter, Zury: "God is our attorney."
On the other, they hurl a fragrant wad of spit in the faces of the country's Mayan survivors and those of other reformers everywhere who thought some Guatemalan rules might be changing.
For some of the elite such political expectoration may indeed be enjoyable, but it may not be politically costless. Even for very rich people wild self indulgence is not always successful.
Specifically, in this instance it can fail if enough Guatemalans protest and if enough of the foreigners who were piously celebrating this progress in the world power system now just as energetically hold culpable the rulers who went out and killed it.
As the Guatemalans rulers making the decision right now behind closed doors somewhat anxiously know, the decisive foreigners include the US White House and Embassy which backed the Rios Montt slaughter but this time around were backing his trial.
There's nothing new in that. The US routinely abandons its former footmen. See Ferdinand Marcos, Noriega, Saddam Hussein and Moammar Qadaffy.
In this case, the understanding all over Guatemala including inside the palace was that if Perez Molina allowed the hand-cleansing trial, the US -- at that time on Hillary Clinton's authority -- would respond with still more military/ "anti-terror"/ "anti-drug" aid.
The Americans thought they had a deal, but now they don't. Will the US just let it slide? They certainly might. For the US, the trial was just an ornament, something to point to and say, when needed: 'See? We're actually pro-human rights.'
They saw no danger that the example would spread, that US DA's would start indicting Bushes (or worse).
So it was a nice cheap fillip, but now Perez Molina and co. have made things complicated.
This is the kind of second-tier decision that US Congress members have the power to shape.
If enough forces weigh in, the trial can resume.
If not, the local killers chuckle.
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