The United States today announced sanctions against Paraguay’s Vice President, Hugo Velazquez, and former President Horacio Cartes for their involvement in “systemic corruption that has undermined democratic institutions,” including freezing all assets and properties they hold. Hints they may have. under US sovereignty.
Both declared last year “significantly corrupt”, a new statement from the US State Department and a conference by Ambassador Mark Ostfeld in Asuncion now serve to detail the sanctions.
Based on the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, “four entities owned or controlled by Cartes: Tabacos USA Inc, Bebidas USA Inc, Dominicana Acquisitions SA, and Frigorífico Chajha SAE,” are also included and directed at serious offenders. human rights abuses and corruption around the world,” the US statement said.
The US government explained in the text that Velazquez has been accused of “interfering with legal processes” and maneuvering to shield himself from possible investigation with bribes or threats.
As for Cartes, the document states that “for more than a decade, he expanded his political and economic power over Paraguayan institutions, taking advantage of illegally acquired wealth and influence.”
“Political career began and continues to depend on corrupt media,” added the text, which reports bribes of up to $10,000 to obtain his designation as the Colorado Party’s presidential candidate.
In 2017, he allocated $1 million of his fortune to “buy” deputy votes and attempt a constitutional reform that would open the door to a second term.
Once this reform failed, and now out of the Presidency, he tried to maintain his influence with continued payments, reaching up to $50,000 a month in some cases.
Along these lines, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured that “the United States is with the people of Paraguay” and supporting its “partners” in local institutions to “combat corruption and protect the rule of law”. Will continue
Despite last year’s qualification, Velazquez remains number two in the country and today again ruled out the possibility of resigning, while Cartes – in command of the country between 2013 and 2018 – days ago after a victory for the ruling Colorado party. took ownership after December Prisoner against President Mario Abdo Benitez.
Washington said, “Today’s actions reinforce the State Department’s public designations of Cartes and Velazquez for significant corruption in 2022 to combat systemic corruption, state capture, strengthen democratic institutions, and promote accountability in Paraguay.” demonstrating our continued commitment to deliver.”
In addition, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC, for its abbreviation in English) noted that both leaders have ties to members of Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist by the US.
The guerrilla group regularly organizes private events in Paraguay where politicians make deals for favors, sell state contracts and discuss law enforcement efforts in exchange for bribes. Representatives of both Cartes and Velazquez accepted bribes at these meetings, OFAC said.
Velazquez offered a press conference today to refute the allegations.
“I will not resign; I owe it to the Paraguayan people themselves. If I do not have any criminal proceedings in Paraguay, how can I resign because of a complaint that I do not know where it comes from and I do not understand it?” Not clear on motivations?”, the Vice President responded to a question on whether he would leave office.
He also said that the US allegations were “ridiculous” and would refute them in court.
According to Sputnik agency and Ultima, “I’m going to appeal to the US courts because these allegations that they have made against me, I don’t know where they come from, it’s a complete lie, it’s a ridiculous complaint. ” Hora newspaper website.
Lastly, he clarified that he does not have any accounts or assets in the US. “I do not do business with American companies or citizens,” he said.
In turn, Cartes left his defense in the hands of his lawyer, Pedro Ovelar.
“We are confident that both the restrictions will be revoked. My client is being unfairly persecuted,” said Ovelar, who deemed the complaints “unwarranted and lacking in foundation and evidence.”
He drew attention to the fact that “the sanctions come from one region, regarding the alleged incidents that took place in Paraguay, but that there is no process against them in the country” and warned that Ostfeld’s words “undermine the presumption of innocence and legitimize violate the safeguards “established in the national constitution”.
“They tried to destroy (Horacio) CART politically from July 2022 and they didn’t succeed,” he said.