CambioColombia, July 22, 2022


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

During his years as Adjunct Justice at the Supreme Court, while he was investigating the “parapolitics”[1], his security team was infiltrated and his communications were illegally intercepted by the Colombian government. Now he’s the one who will lead security policy and intelligence for the whole country.

Iván Velásquez will be the new Minister of Defense in the administration-elect of Gustavo Petro. The announcement was made public, using social networks, by the leader of the Historic Pact Party, closing the discussion about who would carry out this role. During recent weeks there was a rumor that a woman would be put in charge of heading all military and security matters, but finally, it will be Velásquez who is called to have a direct line to the highest military commanders.

Velásquez was born in Medellín on May 12, 1955. He studied law at the University of Antioquia and was part of the Antioquia Bar Association (Colegas in Spanish). There he was very critical of the Defense of Justice Statute, which imposed faceless judges and secret witnesses during the most violent years of drug trafficking. In the decade of the ‘90’s, he moved to the Inspector General’s Office and served as a departmental representative of the Inspector General, advancing investigations of human rights violations, such as extrajudicial executions and torture. He occupied that position for three years, from 1991 to 1994, and then became an Adjunct Justice at the Council of State in 1996. That only lasted a year because he was chosen Regional Director of the Attorney General’s Office in Medellín. His period in the prosecutorial agency was characterized by his fierce struggle against the growing phenomenon of the paramilitaries in the region.

He was a rising star. In 2000 he was chosen as Adjunct Justice of the Supreme Court of Justice. Because of that position, his name became known throughout Colombia. Velásquez was part of the Judicial Closure Body until 2012, and in the last six years, he coordinated the Commission for Investigative Support in the Criminal Branch, where he took charge of investigating the relationships between Members of Congress and the Self-Defense Forces. During his time at the Commission, he obtained the convictions of 50 Members of Congress, the majority of the administration caucus that supported then-President Álvaro Uribe, for their connections with these illegal groups. Among them were Álvaro García, Luis Vives, Álvaro Araújo, Dieb Malof, Erik Morris, and Uribe’s cousin, Mario Uribe.

The Administrative Department of Security (DAS) did not take kindly to his work at the Court, and they intercepted his communications illegally. Besides that, they recruited one of the men in his security detail to furnish them with confidential information about the progress of his investigation of the “parapolitics” and who were the Members of Congress that were to be arrested. The infiltrator in his security detail got along so well with Velásquez that Velásquez hired him to protect his wife. That gave them access to much more information. Years later, during the administration of Juan Manuel Santos, they decided to extinguish the DAS because of those activities, and the government was convicted for the abuses of power.

After leaving the Court, Velásquez was honored by the Jurists Association of Germany “for his commitment to the fight against impunity and for his respect for fundamental rights”, and in September 2013, he was appointed by the United Nations to head the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CIGIG in Spanish). During his stay at that entity, CIGIG uncovered more than ten cases of tax evasion and customs fraud, contamination and environmental damage, campaign finance crimes, influence trafficking, and contract irregularities. The success of his investigations was displeasing to Jimmy Morales, President of Guatemala between 2016 and 2020, and he ordered the unilateral dissolution of CICIG.

With this new transfer, Iván Velásquez becomes an executive. A person who, through investigation and the law, has demonstrated that he possesses all of the diplomas to be part of an administration. What’s unexpected is the job he will have to do. And the paradox that it means to be the target of a governmental entity and now directing that government’s security forces.

[1] “parapolitica”, “parapolitics” was the term applied to the close relationships between paramilitaries and political officials.

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