Guatemala rift with Colombia deepens over Velásquez investigation

Colombian Defense Minister Iván Velásquez during a bilateral exchange at the Pentagon. Photo: US Secretary of Defense.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei is trying to bridge a diplomatic rift with his Colombian counterpart Gustavo Petro after both countries recalled their Ambassadors. A Special Prosecutor of Guatemala’s Public Ministry alledges Colombia’s Defense Minister, Iván Velásquez, could face criminal prosecution in the Central American nation. Guatemala’s Ministerio Público claims Velásquez, while head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Cicig), between 2013 and 2017, endorsed bribes and “effective collaboration” from three senior executives of Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

According to the Special Prosecutor of Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office, the former head of the UN-backed anti-corruption entity committed “illegal, arbitrary and abusive acts.”

Giammattei called on Petro to exercise “measure” in diplomatic relations after Colombia’s leftist leader backed his Defense Minister stating that “Velásquez was hired by Cicig to “destroy the impunity that dominated and dominates the Republic of Guatemala.”  Petro also affirmed that Velásquez is being “cornered by those who exercise that impunity.”

Giammattei urged both countries to resolve their differences diplomatically “to prevent conflicts from escalating.” The Guatemalan President emphasized that the case against Velásquez amounts to an investigation, and not “political persecution” as Petro affirms. “I will not fall into Petro’s game,” remarked Giammattei after Colombia’s Ambassador was summoned to Bogotá. “We know the monster, we’ve seen it up close,” wrote Velásquez on Twitter after being formally accused by Guatemala’s Anti-impunity Prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche.

Petro is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.