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After Ríos Montt, an evangelical Christian, seized power in Guatemala in a 1982 military coup, U.S. evangelical missionaries and parachurch organizations supported his regime through public outreach, fundraising, and congressional lobbying. Despite mounting evidence that Ríos Montt’s campaign against Guatemala’s “communist insurgency” involved the mass killing of indigenous Mayans, conservative evangelical groups in the United States argued that the dictator’s Christian faith would compel him to improve the country’s human rights situation. This essay explores the theological beliefs underpinning evangelical support for Ríos Montt and contends that backing from U.S. and Guatemalan evangelicals for his regime and for Reagan administration’s efforts to extend military aid to Guatemala became significant factors shaping relations between the two countries. By placing evangelical involvement in Guatemala in an international context as part of a global evangelistic campaign, this essay reveals how religious nonstate actors shaped U.S. relations with Central America in this period.




Oxford University Press

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