Wednesday October 05, 2022

Paraguay VP Velazquez resigns after US sanctions

Published : 13 Aug 2022, 00:57

  DF News Desk

Velazquez offered his resignation next week within minutes of the US ambassador giving a news conference. Photo: DW.

Hugo Velazquez, the Vice President of Paraguay, said Friday that he would offer his resignation to his party and withdraw from the presidential race following the US decision to blacklist him from entry over "significant" acts of corruption, reported DW, quoting news agencies AFP, AP and Reuters.

While Velazquez denied the US accusation, he said his resignation would be offered to "protect" his party.

"I speak with the calm that my behavior gives me, because I did not do what they are accusing me of," Velazquez said in comments broadcast on local radio station Monumental.

"I am speaking with a clear conscience."

What does the US designation mean?

Earlier Friday, a statement from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Velazquez of involvement in graft.

"These designations reaffirm the commitment of the United States to combat corruption," Blinken said in the statement.

The US alleges Velazquez's close associate Juan Carlos Duarte offered a bribe to a public official in Paraguay with the intent to "obstruct an investigation that threatened the Vice President and his financial interests."

Duarte is also accused of breach of trust in his capacity as a legal advisor to the Yacyreta Bi-National Entity hydroelectric plant, a joint venture between Paraguay and Argentina.

Marc Ostfield, the US ambassador in Paraguay's capital city Asuncion announced at a news conference Duarte had offered a bribe in excess of $1 million (€970,000).

Ostfield described the bribe offer as "consistent with an apparent pattern of corrupt activity.''

The US also blacklisted the immediate family members of both men to prevent the possibility of asset transfers and access to assets that may be tucked away in the names of close relatives.

What other fallout is there in Paraguay from the blacklisting?

Duarte also said he would resign and added that he planned to cooperate in the investigation.

"It is a public position and I have to honor the institutions," he told the Reuters news agency.

In July, the US State Department accused the former Paraguayan president Horacio Cartes of "significant corruption" and said he was blocking an international investigation from proceeding while accusing the businessman of links to "terrorist" groups. He too is barred from entering the US.

Cartes was dismissive of the ban last month, calling the State Department's accusations both "unfounded and unjust."