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El País article that distorts, misguides and lies

Velásquez and Currichiche
Alejandro Palmieri
19 de enero, 2023

In today's edition of El País (1/18/23) – in the "America Colombia" section – a article signed by Camila Osorio, the culture correspondent of that media outlet in Colombia, was published.   The article is entitled The Corruption of the Guatemalan Judicial System splashes the Government of Colombia (sic) and, perhaps because she is the correspondent of culture and not of politics, diplomacy or judicial affairs, the journalist makes several mistakes and incurs  in inaccuracies, in addition to making distorted assessments.

What initially draws attention is the intro that reads verbatim:

"The legal case in Guatemala against Colombian Defense Minister Iván Velásquez has no hard evidence against him, but it’s a new sign of the deep corruption crisis that the Central American country's judicial system is going through."

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The journalist states that the case does not have conclusive evidence even before a judicial process is established against Velasquez; that is, the journalist confuses – or tries to make her audience believe – that what was declared by FECI’s prosecutor Curruchiche and what the images shown in the communique are "the evidence" against the former commissioner, now defense minister.

Obviously, the journalist could not have had access to "the evidence" in possession of the investigating entity, since what was announced is just an investigation that could lead to prove the involvement of Velasquez; as of now, there´s just circumstantial evidence.  An eventual accusation will have to be made after the investigation that was announced.  If only after that investigation, it is estimated that the presence of an accused is required to face trial and to ensure such presence, his arrest is ordered, even then it will not be possible to speak of "the evidence" that is available, because according to Guatemalan law, then the MP will have three months to present accusations based on the evidence collected before and during that time.  

The journalist's statement can be attributed to ignorance given her area of expertise.  However, it subsequently transmits inaccurate information to the readers.  It is true, yes, that the probability that the case – or an eventual arrest warrant – will prosper against Velasquez is almost nil.  This is because the agreement creating CICIG granted immunity to all foreign members of that commission; that circumstance is regrettable, alas, but it is a condition to which Guatemala was subjected.  In addition, at least while Gustavo Petro is president, an arrest or extradition to Guatemala will not prosper. 

The article quotes Juan Pappier, deputy director (acting) of the activist NGO Human Rights Watch, Americas Division, and he erroneously says: '...  Guatemala canceled this cooperation agreement last year "with absurd legal arguments, and now they persecute those who investigated and release those investigated."   As can be easily corroborated, Guatemala did not "cancel" the agreement but, precisely in compliance of it, exercised its prerogative not to renew it.  The rhetoric used is no coincidence, since canceling has an abrupt and whimsical connotation, when what happened is the opposite: it was announced in advance (there were legal actions to avoid it and, the previous magistracy of the Constitutional Court ruled against such claims) and was done within the framework of the agreement itself.  Pappier, misleads and lies.

Nor, as can also easily be corroborated, CICIG ceased functions "last year" as it left Guatemala in 2019, during the previous government.  Again, the statement -narrative- that it was just last year is intended to make readers believe that it is a recent event when reality it was 3 years ago and during a different administration. 

When referring to the arrest warrant issued for David Gaitán, a former Guatemalan CICIG worker, he is trying to deceive – again – by stating the following: "Especially since the government signed an international and legal agreement that provided immunity to all CICIG members, the charges against David Gaitán must be dropped. We call on the UN to demand from the government its commitments to protect those fighting corruption in the CICIG."

As stated, the agreement granted protection from criminal prosecution - immunity – but only applicable to foreign members of the CICIG, not to nationals, since that would constitute a violation of the Guatemalan constitution.  Thus, the arrest warrant against Gaitán was issued in accordance with Guatemalan laws and without violating the agreement to create CICIG as the El Pais note would have the readers believe.

Later, it tries to mix cases and take advantage of the victimization of some defendants, when reference is made to the case of money laundering and other crimes against José Rubén Zamora, and that the judge who authorized these new arrest warrants, Carol Patricia Flores, was accused (unsuccessfully) by the CICIG in 2018 of corruption, falling into a crude strawman fallacy.

Finally, in line with the narrative of local activists, the note refers to the entelechy called "pact of the corrupt" attributing the reference to "three -anonymous- experts in Guatemala."  

The first time that this designation -pact of the corrupt- was used, it was to name what on September 13, 2017, deputies to the Congress of the Republic intended modifying the penalties for several crimes.  Thus, this designation was limited to politicians, but then – and with nefarious intent – it was extended to include businessmen or anyone who questioned or opposed CICIG's claims.  That designation was made viral by almost the entire national press.  Those three anonymous "experts" refer to an indeterminate – and non-existent – group of people, in breach of journalistic ethics that a media outlet like El País should maintain.  

Beyond the -remote- chances of success of the actions against Iván Velásquez, the announcement of an investigation of his actions was enough to generate a disproportionate reaction from the national and foreign press, but also impertinent and undiplomatic on the part of President Petro who obviously supports his minister, but transfers to the bilateral diplomatic sphere an investigation against a person, not against a country or a government.  

Friendly, diplomatic, and commercial relations between Guatemala and Colombia have been very good and will continue to be so despite the passing outbursts of a temporary president.  

The piece of the culture correspondent of El País, full of shortcomings, remains for posterity as a proof of the popular saying in Spanish: “zapatero a tus zapatos” (shoemaker to your shoes) indicating that one should not opine on things that one does not know or understand.

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