Guatemala ups persecution of those who pursued the corrupt

Jan 17, 2023, 10:24 PM | Updated: Jan 18, 2023, 1:15 pm
FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2022 file photo, Colombian Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez pauses while spe...

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2022 file photo, Colombian Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez pauses while speaking during a meeting with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon in Washington, Nov. 29, 2022. Guatemala announced on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023 that it will take legal action against Velásquez who led an anti-corruption commission in Guatemala. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The Guatemalan government’s effort to undo more than a decade of United Nations-backed anti-corruption work moved even beyond its borders this week, in what experts say is an election year attempt to assure conservative voters its like won’t be seen again.

Guatemalan prosecutors announced their intention to pursue legal action against Colombian Iván Velásquez, who led the U.N.’s anti-corruption mission in Guatemala. Velásquez, who is now Colombia’s defense minister, and prosecutors the U.N. helped train dealt blow after blow to Guatemalan corruption over 12 years until the government refused to renew their mandate in 2019.

Since then, the administration of President Alejandro Giammattei has been accused by civil society organizations and foreign governments of systemically pursuing those who worked with the U.N. mission, best known by its Spanish initial CICIG.

Some 30 judges, magistrates and prosecutors involved in the investigation or processing of those corruption cases have been forced to flee the country after facing legal action from the current administration.

Giammattei is not eligible for re-election in June, but his Vamos party will put forward a national lawmaker as its candidate. The election promises to be a free-for-all with some 30 parties participating. No Guatemalan party has ever been re-elected to the presidency for consecutive terms.

“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,” said Tiziano Breda, a Latin America expert with the Italy-based Istituto Affari Internazionali. “And it assures that in the case of the continuation of this government the dismantling will continue.”

Perhaps the CICIG’s greatest achievement was the investigation and prosecution of President Otto Pérez Molina, who was forced to resign along with his Cabinet in 2015.

In addition to reversing the achievements made against corruption, Breda said, the current government’s campaign against those associated with anti-corruption efforts “tries to change the narrative about what CICIG came to do in the country and what it accomplished.”

Guatemala’s current anti-corruption prosecutor, Rafael Curruchiche Cacul, alleges Velásquez improperly entered into a cooperation agreement with Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht while investigating that firm’s extensive bribery operations across the region. That cooperation agreement was approved by a Guatemalan judge.

Curruchiche Cacul was sanctioned by the United States last year for allegedly obstructing corruption investigations and pursuing instead investigations against former anti-corruption prosecutors and judges.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro defended Velásquez, saying the corrupt are now pursuing him even years after he left Guatemala.

Farhan Haq, spokesman for U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, said Wednesday they were aware of the intention of Guatemalan prosecutors to take action against Velásquez and reiterated the immunity he and others retain.

“The Secretary-General expresses his concern at the numerous reports suggesting that criminal prosecution is being exercised against those who sought to shed light on cases of corruption and worked to strengthen the justice system in Guatemala,” Haq said.

Gabriela Carreta, a political scientist at Rafael Landivar University, said the actions of Curruchiche Cacul aim to send “a clear message that never again will there be investigations against corruption, nor a seach for justice, much less with foreign intervention.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - John Lydon attends the LA premiere of "Punk" at SIR in Los Angeles, Monday, March 4, 2019. P...
Associated Press

Punk icon Lydon fails in bid to play Eurovision Song Contest

LONDON (AP) — Punk icon John Lydon has failed in his attempt to become Ireland’s entry for the pop music competition the Eurovision Song Contest. The former Sex Pistols frontman entered the song “Hawaii” with his post-punk band Public Image Ltd. in the national runoff for May’s continent-wide contest. Jurors and viewers of a televised […]
1 day ago
A vendor sits at a flea market in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)...
Associated Press

Dozens of soldiers freed in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Dozens of Russian and Ukrainian prisoners of war have returned home following a prisoner swap, officials on both sides said Saturday. Top Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak said in a Telegram post that 116 Ukrainians were freed. He said the released POWs include troops who held out in Mariupol during Moscow’s […]
1 day ago
FILE - The British frigate HMS Portland heads through the Suez canal, in Ismailia, Egypt Wednesday,...
Associated Press

Royal Navy sailors hospitalized after drinking water on ship

LONDON (AP) — A Royal Navy warship has returned to port in Britain after several sailors got sick from the vessel’s drinking water, officials said Saturday The navy said frigate HMS Portland had returned to its base at Portsmouth on England’s south coast on Friday “as a precautionary measure, following an issue with one of […]
1 day ago
FILE - An American flag is flown next to the Chinese national emblem during a welcome ceremony at t...
Associated Press

China plays down Blinken’s canceled visit over balloon

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — China played down the cancellation of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a large Chinese balloon suspected of conducting surveillance on U.S. military sites roiled diplomatic relations, saying that neither side had formally announced any such plan. “In actuality, the U.S. and China have never announced any […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Ohio train derailment causes causes fire, home evacuations

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — A train derailment and resulting large fire prompted an evacuation order in an Ohio village near the Pennsylvania state line on Friday night, covering the area in billows of smoke lit orange by the flames below. Officials in East Palestine, Ohio, notified residents that an evacuation order remained in place […]
1 day ago
Pope Francis meets with a group of the Catholic faithful from the town of Rumbek, who had walked fo...
Associated Press

Pope encourages South Sudanese, will raise plight of women

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — Pope Francis sought Saturday to console the long-suffering people of South Sudan as he opened his first full day in a country beset by conflict, poverty and humanitarian crises by encouraging priests and nuns to serve their flocks by joining in their tears. After arriving in the world’s newest country […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Guatemala ups persecution of those who pursued the corrupt