Wolves and Henhouses
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Guatemalan authorities issued a series of arrest warrants against anticorruption officials this week, a development that has raised fears about democratic backsliding in the Central American country, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The warrants target dozens of judges and prosecutors who were involved in fighting corruption in the government, including those who cooperated with the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).
This week, prosecutors said they are investigating former CICIG chief, Iván Velásquez, for alleged bribery.
Established in 2006, the commission investigated and prosecuted corruption in Guatemala by opening its own probes and working with the country’s attorney general’s office to bring cases to court.
During his tenure, Velásquez – who currently serves as Colombia’s defense minister – had participated in the prosecution of many high-profile Guatemalans for corruption, including the heads of Guatemala’s central bank and political party leaders.
But in 2019, the Guatemalan government dismantled the commission, accusing it of abusing its authority and violating the constitution. It subsequently began launching investigations of judges and prosecutors who worked with the commission, prompting many of them to flee the country.
The probe against Velásquez has caused a rift between Guatemala and Colombia, with Colombian President Gustavo Petro saying that his government will shield the defense minister from prosecution.
Meanwhile, analysts noted that Guatemala’s moves are also damaging bilateral relations with the US, as the latter seeks to curb illegal migration into the US by strengthening Guatemala’s rule of law and its fight against corruption.
Over the past two years, more than 507,000 Guatemalans have been detained by US officials along the southwestern border, according to the US Customs and Border Protection force.