Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Diplomatic spat between Guatemala, Colombia intensifies

A diplomatic row between Guatemala and Colombia deepened on Tuesday as Guatemala’s government accused Colombia’s defense chief of crimes related to a high-stakes graft probe he once led as a special prosecutor in Guatemala. On Tuesday, the minister at the center of the storm – Colombian defense chief Ivan Velasquez – took to Twitter to thank those who have rallied to his side, including President Gustavo Petro, while also touting the need to fight graft. “We know the monster, we’ve seen it up close,” wrote Velasquez, who was the head from 2013-2019 of a U.N.-backed anti-corruption body that operated in Guatemala. “The fight against corruption has to be a goal, a collective action,” he added. Over the past year, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei has faced a growing chorus of critics claiming he has slammed the brakes on anti-corruption efforts, as well as forcing some judges and prosecutors to flee the country. On Monday, Guatemala insinuated that Velasquez had committed crimes. A Guatemalan prosecutor later clarified that Velasquez is being investigated for “illegal, arbitrary and abusive acts” stemming from his investigation into an alleged bribery scheme involving Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht. Speaking from the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Petro defended Velasquez, saying he would not accept any arrest warrant for him. (https://neuters.de/world/americas/guatemala-summons-ambassador-colombia-consultations-defense-minister-tussle-2023-01-17/) The spat led both nations to summon their ambassadors for consultations.

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