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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Paraguay: Vice President resigns on corruption charges

Buenos Aires ( Associated Press) – Paraguay’s Vice President Hugo Velázquez Moreno announced Friday that he will step down next week, shortly after being included on a US corruption list for his alleged role in bribing a public official.

The announcement of Velázquez’s inclusion on the corruption list – announced Friday morning by the US ambassador to Paraguay, Mark Ostfield – shocked the Paraguayan political world, not only because of Moreno’s role in President Mario Abdo Benítez’s government, but also because he is seen. As one of the main contenders to become the presidential candidate for the Colorado party in the next year’s elections.

Just minutes after Ostfield spoke at a news conference at the US embassy in Paraguay’s capital Asuncion, Velázquez claimed he was innocent, but said he would drop his presidential bid and next week to defend himself from the charges. Will submit his resignation to Congress.

“It really fell like a bucket of cold water to me,” Velázquez said during an interview for a local radio station. “I don’t know what he meant because he didn’t give much detail.”

Ostfield said former prosecutor Juan Carlos Duarte, a personal and business associate of Moreno, was also on the corruption list.

Ostfield said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken “has received credible information” indicating that “at the request of Vice President Velázquez, Duarte, his close personal and professional colleague, offered a bribe of more than US$1 million to a public official.” .

This bribe offer was “an act consistent with a clear pattern of corrupt activity” and, in this case, was done “to obstruct an investigation, thereby threatening the vice president and his financial interests,” Ostfield said. .

As a result of the designations, Velázquez, Duarte and members of their immediate family would no longer be able to enter the United States.

Velázquez said that he was “completely and completely unaware of what was conveyed by the ambassador.”

Paraguay’s vice president said he would resign because he wanted to “go out as an ordinary citizen so that I believe is an injustice.”

President Mario Abdo Benítez said the US allegation “shocked us all” but congratulated Velázquez on his quick decision to pull out of the presidential race and announced he was stepping down as vice president.

In addition to his close ties with Velázquez, Duarte is also legal advisor to the entity that manages the binational Yasireta Dam, jointly owned by Paraguay and Argentina.

The US State Department said, “Duarte’s act of corruption abused and exploited his powerful and privileged public position within the Yasiretta Binational Entity, jeopardizing the public’s trust in one of Paraguay’s most important economic assets.” ”

Duarte has been removed from his position at Yasiretta, Abdo revealed.

The designation comes just weeks after former Paraguayan President Horacio Manuel Cartes was added to the US corruption list for “participation in significant corruption”. Cartes served as President of Paraguay between August 2013 and August 2018.

Ostfield emphasized that the appointment “has nothing to do with politics” and that Washington “will continue to work closely with President Mario Abdo Benítez and his government on a variety of issues, including the fight against corruption and impunity.” , as well as money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

World Nation News Desk
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