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Tensions rise between Colombia, Guatemala on accusation against defense minister

A diplomatic crisis between Colombia and Guatemala heated up Tuesday after the Central American country recalled its ambassador to Bogota.

The Foreign Ministry announced the decision to recall Reagan Vega Santizo in response to Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who ordered his ambassador to Guatemala to return after the Guatemalan Prosecutor's Office accused Colombian Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez of illegal acts.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs regrets that the Government of Colombia is turning a legal issue into a political one, taking abrupt decisions without following the corresponding diplomatic steps," it said in a statement. "In this regard, we have decided by reciprocity to recall the Guatemalan Ambassador to Colombia.”

The Guatemalan head of the Special Prosecutor's Office Against Impunity, Rafael Curruchiche, announced Monday it will file charges against Velasquez for alleged illegal actions when he served as head of a UN anti-corruption investigator group in Guatemala.

Valasquez was appointed in 2013 to head the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICG) which brought three former presidents to trial and indicted more than 1,500 people for corruption, including government officials, judges, and businessmen. Velasquez had to leave Guatemala due to tensions with President Jimmy Morales, who ended the commission's 12-year term.

Curruchiche said in an official communication that the country will make Velasquez "answer for his illegal and abusive acts" as head of CICG in an alleged corruption case related to Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

Curruchiche was sanctioned in 2021 by the US for obstructing investigations into acts of corruption.

Petro backed Velasquez and late Monday recalled ambassador Victoria Gonzalez. Petro said he "will never accept the arrest warrant of our Minister Velasquez.”

“He proved to fight against corruption and we will not allow corruption to persecute him. Our ambassador is immediately called for consultation," Petro wrote on Twitter.

“If Guatemala insists on imprisoning good men, we have no business with that country,” Petro told reporters after arriving in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Source: Anadolu Agency