US places Paraguay vice president on corruption list

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BUENOS AIRES — Paraguay Vice President Hugo Velázquez Moreno was included on a U.S. corruption list for his alleged involvement in offering bribes to a public official, U.S. Ambassador Marc Ostfield said Friday morning.

The news rocked Paraguay’s political world not only due to Moreno’s role in President Mario Abdo Benítez’s administration but also because he is seen as a leading contender to become a presidential candidate for the Colorado Party in next year’s elections.

Juan Carlos Duarte, a former prosecutor who is a close personal and business associate of Moreno, was also included in the corruption list, Ostfield said in a news conference at the U.S. embassy in the Paraguayan capital of Asunción.

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

This offering of a bribe was “consistent with an apparent pattern of corrupt activity” and in this case it was carried out to “obstruct an investigation that threatened the vice president and his financial interests,” Ostfield said.

As a result, Velázquez, Duarte and their immediate family members will no longer be allowed to enter the United States.

The designation comes mere weeks after a former president of Paraguay, Horacio Manuel Cartes, was also included on a U.S. corruption list for his “involvement in significant corruption.” Cartes served as president of Paraguay between August 2013 and August 2018.

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

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