Guatemala settles in to new rule

''Take your machine guns off your chest, take your pistols out of your belts, and put your machetes back to work,'' exhorted Guatemala's new military leader General Efrain Rios Montt. ''No more bodies on the roadside.''

Monitor Latin America correspondent James Nelson Goodsell reports General Rios Montt is moving quickly to take charge in Guatemala following last week's coup d'etat. The mention of ''bodies on the roadside'' referred to political violence in Guatemala which is claiming an average of 10 lives a day.

There was widespread support in moderate political circles for the coup and for the country's new leader. ''He loves democracy. . . . He is a perfectionist, a very, strict man,'' said a Christian Democratic spokesman. ''He is definitely, absolutely an honest man. . . . He will probably be a very good dictator, a benevolent dictator.''

While coup leaders denounced the results of the March 7 election as fraudulent, they have not yet outlined plans for new elections. But the feeling here is that General Rios Montt and the young colonels and majors now in power do in fact regard themselves as caretakers until the country is eventually returned to civilian rule. But the main question is just how long it will be before that takes place.

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