The United States singled out Paraguayan Vice President Hugo Velázquez on Friday for his involvement in significant acts of corruption, after which the official announced that he would resign his presidential candidacy and his position.
The designation was made by the United States ambassador in Asunción, Marc Ostfield, at a press conference in the diplomatic delegation, simultaneously with the publication of a statement by the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in Washington.
The United States accuses Velázquez of having offered a bribe of more than 1 million dollars to a public official.
Minutes after the announcement, Velázquez told Asunción radio stations that he was resigning from his presidential candidacy in the internal elections of the ruling Colorado Party and that he will resign as vice president next week.
“To take care of the movement (…) it is my obligation to step aside,” Velázquez told Monumental radio. He added that he will submit his resignation as vice president next week to bring the office “in order.”
“I speak with the peace that my behavior gives me, because I did not do what they are accusing me of (attempted bribery). I am speaking with a clear conscience,” he added.
Ambassador Ostfield said the offer of more than $1 million to a public official “was made to obstruct an investigation that threatened the vice president and his financial interests.”
Velázquez did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
The president, Mario Abdo, said that in the current circumstances Velázquez’s candidacy was “unacceptable” and congratulated him for having resigned from both positions.
“I say it with pain because he is a friend, a colleague, but I congratulate him for his mature attitude in prioritizing the interests and building credibility of our nation (…) he is going to make himself available to the American government,” the president pointed out.
Washington also accused Juan Carlos Duarte, who is currently the legal adviser of the Yacyretá binational hydroelectric company, for acts of corruption, and who said he was surprised.
“It surprises me greatly, I’m going to make myself available to them, I’m going to ask for the pertinent information,” Duarte told Reuters. “I have already resigned from my position (…) it is a public position and I have to honor the republican institutions.”
The designation implies that both Velázquez and Duarte and their immediate family members “are not eligible to enter the United States,” the ambassador added.
Velázquez, who for years was a prosecutor in the area of the Triple Border between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, had run as a candidate for the primaries that will take place at the end of December on behalf of Abdo’s movement.
The United States had singled out former Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, who ruled the country between 2013 and 2018, weeks ago for obstructing “an important international investigation into transnational crime to protect himself and his criminal associate from possible prosecution and political harm.”
Abdo’s movement will face Cartes’ in the December elections to decide the direction of the conservative Colorado Party, which has ruled the country for the last seven decades, with the exception of the 2008-2013 presidential term.
“All US designations go through a rigorous review process (…) of many months. For us, our priority as an embassy is to do everything possible to combat corruption and impunity and we will use all the elements that we have available,” Ostfield said.