CNN has a comprehensive article covering the circumstances of the current trial of former General/dictator Efraim Rios Montt and one of his cronies. There are a couple of notable things once you get familiar with the scope of the behaviors under discussion.
As the article points out, the case is focused on the massacre of the Ixil, and directly addresses around 1600 killings within a smaller subset of Maya-linked ethnic groups. They were significant in their own right, and reflective of the much broader campaign waged against them as a group in terms of destroying their livelihoods. However, this is being used as a narrow and specific set of charges that the prosecutors presumably believe can be proven, and should not be taken as the entirety of the Rios Montt government’s abuses, especially in terms of the targeting of indigenous Guatemalans where estimates start at 10,000+ dead.
Genocide is hard to prove by its nature, absent very specific sort of evidence that clearly establishes ethnic extermination as a prime mover. Interestingly enough, a lot of the non-testimonial evidence is coming from Rios Montt’s fair weather friends in the US diplomatic and espionage establishments, who as of 2008 (with the leadership of the US ambassador to Guatemala) started a policy of actively encouraging analysis of their sources at the Guatemalan civic level that had previously been largely constrained to academics and journalists. This doesn’t change a thing about US complicity under its Cold War rationale, but it does create an alternative for engagement with the past in Latin America other than “pretend nothing happened”. However, it does suggest that holding Americans accountable, in absentia or otherwise, for their contributions to Montt’s rule is unlikely. More’s the pity.
The article is accurate in pointing out that no one knows where this is going, if somehow the case results in his guilt being established. It’s a national-level genocide trial, and while there have been lower level trials in Guatemala of trigger-pullers that have resulted in sometimes extraordinary sentences of thousands of years, there’s nothing quite like this.
It goes without saying, probably, but he’s guilty as hell. I’m not sure why genocide was the rubric that was chosen; presumably it was a necessary tipping point to move away from “bad things happen in war” whitewashing. It’s regrettable that such a high standard of evidence is required to make monstrously inhumane conduct punishable by law.