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Iván Velásquez: the Minister Who Destabilizes Relations between Colombia and Guatemala

The current defense minister of Colombia, Iván Velásquez, has faced criticism from the Guatemalan government for his leadership of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala between 2013 and 2019. For its part, the Colombian government supports him, which could become the beginning of a diplomatic crisis between both Latin American nations

Ivan Velasquez

Photo: Public Domain

LatinAmerican Post | David García Pedraza

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Leer en español: Iván Velásquez: el ministro que desestabiliza las relaciones entre Colombia y Guatemala

The lawyer, and current Colombian defense minister, Iván Velásquez, has diplomatic relations between the South American country and Guatemala in trouble. This is due to allegations of anomalous cooperation and overstepping of powers on which the Guatemalan government is accused. Accusations that Colombian President Gustavo Petro does not accept, in addition to communicating that the minister will be defended in case he requires it.

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Velásquez has worked as a lawyer and diplomat. As head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), he was a controversial official in the Central American country due to the investigations carried out against the control agencies of that country. Even the Guatemalan president of the time, Jimmy Morales, was peppered with inquiries into illicit electoral financing. Due to these explorations, Morales went ahead to express that Velásquez considered himself a persona non grata in Guatemala, which led to his expulsion from the country, in addition to the dissolution of the CICIG. Despite this, Morales continues to face investigations for the crimes with which he is associated.

The Quetzal and Condor nations, close to a diplomatic break

With the Guatemalan intentions of initiating legal proceedings against Velásquez, Colombian President Gustavo Petro was confident in telling public opinion: "If Guatemala insists on arresting fair men, well, we have nothing to do with Guatemala." With this message, he implied that he could take the step to break diplomatic relations between the two countries. Even in both territories, the foreign ministers have been called for consultation so far this week, which further incites the possible breakdown of relations.

The diplomatic situation between the two nations is a new and unusual situation in the international arena, since these countries had not had political or economic disputes in the past. Even by 2025, both nations would celebrate 200 years of uninterrupted relations. In economic matters, both countries have a free trade agreement since 2009. The two territories have been working to make it one of the most comprehensive trade agreements between Central and South America.

It Is More what Unites Them than What Separates Them

Colombia and Guatemala are important economic allies in Latin America. In recent years, Guatemala has positioned itself among the top 25 exporting countries to Colombia and among the top 50 in imports. For its part, Colombia is among the top ten importers of Guatemala and in the 25th place of exports in the same country.

When talking about exports, Colombia sends mostly minerals (with 32.7% of total exports), plastics, petroleum derivatives, and pharmaceutical products to Guatemala. On the other hand, it imports rubber from Guatemala (with 45.4% of the total imports to Colombia), sugar, electric batteries and insecticides, among others. These data, collected from the evaluation of commercial relations between Guatemala and Colombia, highlight the variety of resources and products that both countries send and receive from the other, which gives a vision of collectivity between the two territories.

Likewise, both share a Free Trade Agreement since 2009. These economic relations, although they are not related to the latest diplomatic problems, could be affected. In the long term, the fact that the ambassadors are not present in both countries can cause issues for the future.

As a tourist offer, there is also complementarity between both countries. Colombia is emphasizing natural and religious tourism, while Guatemala is focusing on historical and cultural tourism. Despite the fact that the number of Colombians who visit Guatemala and vice versa is not notorious, the two territories have improved and expanded the tourist variety for foreigners coming from the United States, Mexico and Western Europe mostly.

Finally, in the diplomatic arena, which is where there are now frictions, both Colombia and Guatemala are part of various international organizations, and work together to denounce and solve problems of a transnational nature, such as the UN, the OAS, the G-77 and the SELA . Likewise, they have shared cooperation programs in the field of security and the fight against drug trafficking for several years.D

Peacebuilding: The Dream of Both Nations

Guatemala put its last signature to agreement number 12 to achieve peace in 1996 in order to lead the nation to progress and development based on the end of the conflict. Colombia learned from this treaty and in 2016 the peace agreement with the FARC was definitively signed, ending the only armed conflict that continued in the 21st century on the continent. Although the road has been complex for both societies, little by little more confidence is established in the institutions.

With the armed conflict moderately over, both Guatemala and Colombia have been able to work on other problems, such as corruption. The community of the American continent is pressuring Guatemala to lower its guard with the Velásquez case, since the purpose of the CICIG was to dismantle all corrupt activity within the State. With the behavior of government entities, it is inferred that the Central American country does not want to end this scourge.

For its part, the Colombian government in its attempt to achieve “total peace” has won several detractors in public opinion, it also faces the issue of dealing with the winter wave that has hit the Andean Region and the south of the country. Added to these difficulties is the growing uncertainty of the Velásquez case.