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

by | Aug 4, 2022 | World

Bogota, Colombia – Ivan Velasquez first made a name for himself as a prosecutor in Medellin in the 1990s, when he reportedly refused to accept a briefcase of money from Pablo Escobar to drop investigations into the drug lord’s life of luxury in prison.He gained prominence by investigating the ties between Colombian paramilitary forces, politicians and the business community at the height of the civil war. His work ultimately led to the conviction of more than 60 politicians, including the cousin of former President Alvaro Uribe. And he is no stranger to personal risk: During a landmark probe into financial ties between the business community in Antioquia and paramilitary groups, 14 investigators in his office were murdered.
On August 7, Velasquez will become defence minister in the administration of President-elect Gustavo Petro. He will take office amid a host of security challenges: rising violence in rural areas with little or no state presence, record coca production, and criminal armed groups who have grown in power since the country’s historic 2016 peace accord with rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Petro, who will become the first leftist president in Colombia’s modern history, vowed on the campaign trail to significantly reform police and military forces. His appointment of Velasquez, who also worked as the top United Nations official at the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, sends a powerful message that he intends to follow through.
The appointment has sparked harsh criticism from Petro’s critics, who view his past as a rebel fighter with deep suspicion. Velasquez “has taken a strong position against those of us in …

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