The United Nations has issued a press release expressing “concern” after Guatemala introduced it could examine a former anti-corruption investigator assigned to the nation.
Iván Velásquez, a Colombian who led the UN’s anti-corruption efforts in Guatemala from 2013 to 2019, is beneath investigation for “unlawful, arbitrary and abusive acts”, based on prosecutors in Guatemala.
However critics have warned the probe is the newest effort from Guatemala’s authorities to backtrack on anti-corruption efforts.
UN Secretary-Basic António Guterres “expresses his concern on the quite a few stories suggesting that prison prosecution is being exercised in opposition to those that sought to make clear circumstances of corruption and labored to strengthen the justice system in Guatemala”, a spokesperson mentioned on Wednesday.
The UN additionally underscored that “justice operators and officers” from its former anti-corruption marketing campaign proceed to “take pleasure in privileges and immunities” even after their positions have come to a detailed.
The marketing campaign began in 2006 when the UN and Guatemala agreed to launch the Worldwide Fee in opposition to Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The purpose of the fee was to root out “prison teams believed to have infiltrated state establishments” within the wake of Guatemala’s decades-long civil conflict.
In 2007, on the time when the fee was ratified, Guatemala was within the grip of a police scandal, with stories of extrajudicial killings, and there have been fears corruption may erode the nation’s democratic positive aspects.
Velásquez, a Colombian who previously served as an auxiliary Justice of the Peace to his nation’s Supreme Court docket, was appointed to move the CICIG on August 31, 2013.
Below his management, the fee pursued investigations into a few of Guatemala’s highest authorities, together with the administration of then-President Otto Perez Molina.
Each Molina and his vice chairman finally resigned amid accusations they participated in a corruption scheme generally known as “La Linea”, which allegedly used customs officers to solicit bribes in change for evading import duties.
Molina was sentenced final month to 16 years on fraud and conspiracy costs. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The UN fee’s investigations are estimated to have led to the sentencing of greater than 400 individuals, in addition to the disruption of at the very least 60 prison networks.
However the CICIG’s work got here to a sudden halt in 2019, when Guatemala introduced it could withdraw from the 2006 settlement with the UN. The federal government had beforehand tried to declare Velásquez a “persona non grata” and deny him entry to the nation.
The transfer prompted fears that 12 years’ price of presidency reform could be reversed. “The previous actors which have manipulated the judicial system are empowered and can look to debilitate the system once more,” a constitutional lawyer from Guatemala informed Al Jazeera on the time. However proponents of the transfer mentioned the CICIG had develop into a device of political persecution.
Within the years since, the Guatemalan authorities has confronted criticism that it has retaliated in opposition to former members of the CICIG, in addition to different anti-corruption figures. The Related Press estimates that about 30 judges, magistrates and prosecutors have been compelled into exile from Guatemala beneath its present administration.
Some of the high-profile circumstances was that of Juan Francisco Sandoval. Previously the top of the Guatemalan Particular Prosecutor’s Workplace Towards Impunity, he was sacked and fled the nation in 2021.
And simply this previous February, one other distinguished anti-corruption prosecutor in Guatemala, Virginia Laparra, was arrested. Charged with abuse of authority, she was given a four-year sentence in December.
“The focused prosecution of justice and media actors undermines Guatemalan rule of legislation, democracy and prosperity,” the US State Division’s spokesperson Ned Value mentioned in response to Laparra’s sentencing.
Guatemala is now investigating Velásquez, the previous CICIG head, in connection to a cooperation settlement with the Brazilian building agency Odebrecht, an organization beforehand concerned in an worldwide bribery scandal.
The case is being led by Guatemalan prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche Cacul, whom the US State Division has beforehand accused of “disrupting high-profile corruption circumstances in opposition to authorities officers and elevating apparently spurious claims”. He succeeded the exiled Sandoval as chief of the Guatemalan Particular Prosecutor’s Workplace Towards Impunity.
The investigation has sparked tensions between Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei and his Colombian counterpart Gustavo Petro, who appointed Velásquez as defence minister.
Talking from the World Financial Discussion board in Switzerland, Petro mentioned he wouldn’t settle for an arrest warrant for the defence minister.
Giammattei, in the meantime, informed the Spanish information company EFE that Velásquez is going through an investigation and never a prison prosecution right now.
“It could be good if somebody enlightened Mr Petro on the distinction,” Giammattei mentioned. Each presidents have summoned their ambassadors to one another’s nation to debate the diplomatic incident.
Velásquez, in the meantime, took to Twitter on Tuesday to thank Petro for his help.
“I’m deeply grateful to the president [Gustavo Petro] for his expressions of solidarity and belief,” Velásquez wrote.
Referring to corruption as a monster, Velásquez emphasised that he and Petro shared a typical objective: “We all know the monster, we now have seen it up shut and, from completely different trenches, we now have fought it. We all know the way it transforms and the strategies it makes use of, however it doesn’t scare us.”