Teresa Sosa de Rios, the wife of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt, died Monday of natural causes, a lawyer for her family said. She was 89.
Attorney Jaime Hernandez said by telephone that Sosa “was sick, she had diabetes and she was already very old.” Her death comes exactly six months after her husband died of a heart attack at age 91.
Although Sosa did not appear often in public, in 1995 she tried to register as a presidential candidate, but was blocked by authorities based on a constitutional prohibition that limits the electoral participation of the relatives of strongmen or de facto presidents.
Her husband, Rios Montt, seized power in a 1982 coup and presided over one of the bloodiest periods of Guatemala’s civil war in which soldiers waged a scorched-earth campaign to root out Marxist guerrillas.
The late dictator was convicted in 2013 of genocide and crimes against humanity for the massacre of 1,771 indigenous Ixil Mayans by security forces under his command. But the ruling was swiftly set aside and a new trial ordered, dismaying human rights activists and victims who long sought to see him punished for atrocities. He denied there had been a genocide.
A U.N. truth commission determined that some 245,000 people were killed or disappeared during Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war, with the vast majority of the killings attributed to the army or pro-government paramilitary groups. Tens of thousands of those deaths came during Rios Montt’s 17-month rule.