The Guatemalan government has announced that they will be pursuing charges against Colombian Defense Minister Iván Velásquez, as they continue to pursue all of those who were involved in a U.N.-backed anti-corruption mission in the country.

Velásquez was one of the people involved in the decades-long anti-corruption mission, known colloquially as International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), that was successful in its efforts in reducing government corruption in the country until Guatemala refused to renew its mandate in 2019, according to the Associated Press.

Since then, the country, under conservative President Alejandro Giammattei, has been pursuing those who were involved in the project, forcing judges, magistrates, and prosecutors who were involved in these investigations to flee the country out of a fear of being persecuted by the government.

Current Guatemalan prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche Cacul, who has been sanctioned by the United States for allegedly obstructing corruption investigations in the country, claimed that Velásquez had entered into a cooperation agreement with Brazilian construction company Odebrecht while investigating the company’s bribery operations in the country.

“This fits with an electoral purpose. It is an indirect electoral offering for those sectors that are benefitting or are going to benefit from the dismantling of everything that has to do with the CICIG,” Latin American expert Tiziano Breda said.

Velásquez had headed the CICIG mission since 2013, and under his leadership, they were able to pursue investigations on high-level officials in the country, including then-President Otto Pérez Molina, who was forced to resign in 2015 due to his involvement in the country’s corruption scandal.

The charges have been criticized by Colombian President Gustavo Petro as an attack by the corrupt against someone who had left the country years ago; meanwhile, UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his “concern” at the attacks against the members of CICIG and those who participated in the mission by the Guatemalan government, Al Jazeera reported.

Many are seeing the aims of President Alejandro Giammattei’s administration as removing the influence and anti-corruption legacy of CICIG entirely, with political scientist Gabriela Carreta saying that the message was that “never again will there be investigations against corruption, nor a search for justice, much less with foreign intervention.”

Guatemala CICIG Attacks Rep. Pic
The Guatemalan government announced that they will be pursuing charges against Colombian Defense Minister Iván Velásquez for his role in the U.N.-backed anti-corruption mission known as CICIG. This is a representational image. Tingey Injury Law Firm/Unsplash.

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