Colombia’s next defence minister faces ‘a hell of a fight’ | Politics News

Bogota, Colombia – Ivan Velasquez first made a reputation for himself as a prosecutor in Medellin within the Nineties, when he reportedly refused to simply accept a briefcase of cash from Pablo Escobar to drop investigations into the drug lord’s lifetime of luxurious in jail.

He gained prominence by investigating the ties between Colombian paramilitary forces, politicians and the enterprise neighborhood on the top of the civil conflict. His work in the end led to the conviction of greater than 60 politicians, together with the cousin of former President Alvaro Uribe. And he’s no stranger to non-public danger: Throughout a landmark probe into monetary ties between the enterprise neighborhood in Antioquia and paramilitary teams, 14 investigators in his workplace have been murdered.

On August 7, Velasquez will turn out to be defence minister within the administration of President-elect Gustavo Petro. He’ll take workplace amid a bunch of safety challenges: rising violence in rural areas with little or no state presence, document coca manufacturing, and legal armed teams who’ve grown in energy because the nation’s historic 2016 peace accord with rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Petro, who will turn out to be the primary leftist president in Colombia’s fashionable historical past, vowed on the marketing campaign path to considerably reform police and army forces. His appointment of Velasquez, who additionally labored as the highest United Nations official on the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, sends a strong message that he intends to comply with by means of.

The appointment has sparked harsh criticism from Petro’s critics, who view his previous as a rebel fighter with deep suspicion. Velasquez “has taken a robust place towards these of us within the army”, Raul Musse Pencue, a retired profession soldier, informed Al Jazeera. “We concern he’ll usher in a widespread persecution of army personnel who’ve undergone investigations associated to their on a regular basis duties as troopers in service to their nation.”

CICIG
An activist in Guatemala Metropolis holding an indication that reads in Spanish ‘Thanks CICIG’ – the Spanish acronym for the Worldwide Fee Towards Impunity [File: Moises Castillo/AP]

Proper-wing Senator Paloma Valencia went additional, telling native media that the appointment “exhibits a whole absence of democratic ensures … [and] places all of our lives at risk”.

However individuals who have labored carefully with Velasquez in each Colombia and Guatemala paint a really totally different image: one in every of a soft-spoken and apolitical anti-corruption crusader who at all times retains a cool head, even throughout occasions of maximum private hazard.

“He isn’t politically motivated,” Gregorio Oviedo, a prosecutor who labored alongside Velasquez in Medellin, informed Al Jazeera. “His total profession, he has advocated for human rights. He is aware of the way to lead. He is aware of the way to examine, and most significantly, he is aware of what it’s to reside and work in areas of the nation most politicians solely examine from Bogota.”

Stephen McFarland, the previous US ambassador to Guatemala, additionally welcomed the appointment: “Uribe has accused him of getting a political agenda. So long as I’ve recognized him, his solely agenda has been to construct a clear and unbiased justice system.”

‘Highly effective message’

Velasquez’s work has made him many enemies. His workplace in Medellin was illegally bugged by Colombian intelligence and his safety staff infiltrated. His private bodyguard on the time was a spy for the nation’s Administrative Division of Safety, which was dissolved in 2011 after a spate of circumstances of unlawful surveillance of journalists, human rights employees, politicians and judges went public.

He reportedly evaded a kidnapping try in Guatemala when authorities officers allegedly tried to deport him extrajudicially, and he has endured numerous loss of life threats towards each himself and his household in each international locations.

Velasquez’s anti-corruption work in Guatemala led to profitable convictions towards ex-President Otto Perez Molina, his former vice chairman, seven ministers, and dozens of politicians and businessmen. Velasquez was declared persona non grata by then-President Jimmy Morales in 2017 and exiled from the nation.

“He arrested high-level businessmen for monetary crimes – folks from the richest households in Guatemala,” McFarland informed Al Jazeera. “Individuals who earlier than Velasquez arrived thought they have been untouchable.”

Petro
Colombia’s President-elect Gustavo Petro lately spoke to college students at Externado College in Bogota, Colombia [Fernando Vergara/AP]

Petro, who often denounced corruption whereas he was on the marketing campaign path, “is sending a strong message that the times of impunity, when the federal government would possibly flip a blind eye to the excesses of public forces, are over”, Oviedo stated. “Civilian legislation will probably be revered.”

Abuses by police and army forces have come below rising scrutiny in recent times, as official investigations have revealed disturbing particulars of rights abuses, together with the “false positives” scandal by which greater than 6,400 civilians were killed by security forces, who falsely claimed the victims have been enemy combatants.

Velasquez has expressed help for Petro’s plan to position police, who at the moment report back to army command as a part of the defence ministry, below civilian management. The reform was really helpful by the UN final 12 months after an investigation into police violence throughout nationwide protests, the place dozens were killed in a crackdown by security forces.

Petro has additionally promised to reimplement points of the 2016 peace deal that have been delayed or dismantled by the outgoing administration of Ivan Duque. As a part of his efforts to implement “whole peace”, Petro has supplied to negotiate new disarmament talks with rebels who weren’t a part of the FARC peace deal. However this plan additionally entails dialogue with teams such because the Gulf Clan, which has grown more and more aggressive, shutting down giant parts of the nation by pressure and killing dozens of law enforcement officials.

Will they be keen to barter with an ex-guerilla president and a prosecutor who has focused them for many years? Oviedo isn’t sure, however he notes that Velasquez “has the willpower, the power, and the expertise to take the primary steps in direction of actual justice in Colombia. However he’s in for a hell of a struggle.”

What is next for Italy after Prime Minister Draghi’s resignation? | News

The collapse of Draghi’s authorities opens the way in which for early elections in autumn, with polls projecting a snug win by a right-wing alliance.

Italy has entered a brand new interval of political uncertainty as Prime Minister Mario Draghi handed his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella.

The instability might add to the challenges already confronted by the nation, together with hovering inflation and the financial fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Draghi’s authorities will stay in workplace in a caretaker function till early elections in autumn, Mattarella stated on Thursday, after formally accepting the choice.

Italy’s authorities crumbled on Wednesday when three of Draghi’s fundamental coalition companions snubbed a confidence vote he had referred to as to attempt to finish divisions and renew their alliance.

The political disaster has upended months of stability in Italy, throughout which the previous central banker had boosted the nation’s standing in monetary markets and helped form Europe’s response to the warfare in Ukraine.

Why did Draghi hand in his resignation?

  • Draghi had already tendered his resignation final week after one in all his companions, the populist 5 Star Motion, didn’t again him in a confidence vote on measures tackling the excessive value of residing.
  • Mattarella on the time rejected the resignation and informed him to go earlier than parliament to see if he might maintain the broad coalition going till the deliberate finish of the legislature in early 2023.
  • Draghi gained a confidence vote within the Senate on Wednesday and delivered a speech to the Senate through which he made a plea for unity.
  • Nevertheless, boycotts by three of his key coalition allies within the voting just about doomed any prospects for the survival of a broad unity government.
  • 5 Star as soon as once more determined to not again him, saying he had not addressed their core issues. The fitting-wing Forza Italia and League events determined to shun the vote, saying they needed a dedication that Draghi was keen to forge a brand new administration with out 5 Star and with new coverage priorities.

What triggered the political disaster?

  • The 74-year-old former European Central Financial institution (ECB) chief was parachuted into the prime minister’s seat in 2021 as Italy wrestled with the COVID-19 pandemic and an ailing economic system.
  • He fashioned a broad nationwide coalition in February 2021 to deal with the coronavirus emergency and undertake scores of measures pledged to the European Fee, in return for the preliminary instalments of some 200 billion euros ($226bn) of European Union pandemic restoration funds.
  • His authorities was marred by divisions that made the chief unable to make a lot progress in reforming an underperforming economic system.
  • Issues turned bitter earlier this yr when Draghi missed out on the function of president in a vote of greater than 1,000 parliamentarians and regional delegates.
  • With a nationwide election due within the first half of 2023, the events in his coalition started squabbling with an eye fixed to bettering their ballot standings.

What occurs now?

  • Draghi will lead a caretaker authorities, caring for pressing issues till elections are held in September or October.
  • The nationwide vote is constitutionally mandated to be held inside 70 days after the federal government is dissolved.
  • Supporters of Draghi warned a authorities collapse might worsen social ills in a interval of rampant inflation, in addition to delay the finances, threaten EU post-pandemic restoration funds and ship monetary markets right into a tailspin.
  • Italian bonds and shares bought off sharply on Thursday simply as markets had been bracing for the primary rate of interest hike from the ECB since 2011. The ECB was due on Thursday to unveil a instrument to right stress in bond markets for indebted eurozone members, akin to Italy.

What has been the response?

  • Primarily based on present polls, a right-wing alliance led by Giorgia Meloni’s neo-fascist Brothers of Italy get together and together with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini’s League would comfortably win a snap election, offered the three events can kind a coalition.
  • Meloni, who has been calling for an early election since earlier than the disaster erupted, was triumphant. “The desire of the folks is expressed in a technique: by voting. Let’s give hope and energy again to Italy,” she stated.
  • Enrico Letta, head of the centre-left Democratic Celebration, which voted in assist of the prime minister, stated toppling the Draghi authorities meant “going in opposition to Italy and Italians’ pursuits”.
  • France’s European Affairs minister Laurence Boone stated forward of Draghi’s anticipated resignation that the transfer would open a “interval of uncertainty” and mark the lack of a “pillar of Europe”.