UPDATE 1-Guatemala summons ambassador in Colombia for consultations in defense minister tussle

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GUATEMALA CITY, Jan 17 (Reuters) – Guatemala summoned its ambassador in Colombia for consultations, Guatemala’s foreign ministry said Tuesday, a day after Colombia did the same in regard to a conflict over Colombia’s defense minister.

On Monday, Guatemala accused Colombian Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez, who led a United Nations anti-corruption unit in the Central American country, of committing illegal acts.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro came out to defend the minister, saying he would not accept any “order for the arrest” of Velasquez.

The head of Guatemala’s Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity, Rafael Curruchiche, has not yet said whether an arrest warrant has been issued for Velasquez.

Guatemala’s “Ministry of Foreign Relations regrets that the Government of Colombia turns a matter of legal order into a political one, making abrupt decisions without following the corresponding diplomatic steps,” it said in a statement.

Velasquez will need to answer for “illegal, arbitrary and abusive acts” during an investigation into alleged bribery involving Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht, the Guatemalan prosecutor said on Monday.

The probe into Odebrecht’s accused bribery in exchange for public-works contracts led to a sweeping corruption scandal which has since rippled across Latin America.

Velasquez also grew to international fame in 2015 for an investigation into a customs fraud scheme implicating Guatemala’s then-president, who resigned and was arrested.

Velasquez said on Monday he had not received any notice from Guatemalan authorities and that he had “peace of mind” regarding his work in the country. (Reporting by Sofia Menchu and Kylie Madry; Editing by Steven Grattan and Marguerita Choy)

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