LIMA, Peru ( Associated Press) – The United States on Thursday issued sanctions against Paraguay’s former President Horacio Cartes Jara and current Vice President Hugo Velazquez Moreno, revealing explosive allegations that the two men participated in widespread corruption schemes. and had links with members of a terrorist organization. ,
The US Treasury Department said the former president and vice president “engaged in systemic corruption that has undermined Paraguay’s democratic institutions” and had ties to members of Hezbollah, a group the United States has designated a terrorist organization.
As a result, “these two individuals are no longer allowed access to the financial system of the United States,” Mark Ostfeld, the US ambassador to Paraguay, said during a press conference.
Cartes and Velazquez were placed on a US corruption list last year, but the charges against them have now escalated. The Treasury Department also issued sanctions against four companies owned or controlled by Cartes: Tabacos USA, Bebidas USA, Dominicana Acquisitions and Frigorífico Chajha.
Velazquez commented that he was “surprised” by the allegations against him and “categorically and emphatically denied that they happened”, adding that he was not aware of the details and had asked the United States about it. I have asked for more information.
“I have no ties to Hezbollah… or any other terrorist group,” the vice president told a local radio station on Thursday. He clarified that he has no plans to resign from the post.
“I was elected by the Paraguayan people,” he said.
Cartes would not comment on the sanctions at the moment, but he denied corruption allegations by the United States last year. “I deny and reject the content of the allegations,” Cartes tweeted in July 2022, noting that he was “committed to offering all the support and first-source information that authorities need to clarify those issues.” We need those who question us.”
The US State Department said Thursday that Cartes, “one of Paraguay’s wealthiest men” and president from 2013 to 2018, “engaged in a concerted pattern of corruption, including widespread bribery of government officials and legislators.”
The sanctions announced on Thursday sent shockwaves through Paraguay’s political world, with opposition lawmakers demanding an investigation into Cartes, Velazquez and all lawmakers found to have taken bribes.
According to US officials, on his way to becoming president, Cartes gave cash to officials, a pattern that continued throughout his presidency and after he left office.
First, after Cartes joined the Colorado party in 2009, he bribed officials to persuade them to drop the party’s requirement that a person must be a member of the party for 10 years to run for president. He later paid up to $10,000 to some party members to support his candidacy, according to the Treasury Department.
During his presidency, Cartes made monthly payments of between $5,000 and $50,000 to a group of “loyal legislators” to maintain control of Congress. The Treasury Department said those payments continued after lawmakers left office to ensure they voted in their own interests.
Overall, the former president, who continues to lead the Colorado party, “has taken advantage of his illegally acquired wealth and influence over Paraguayan institutions to expand his political and economic power,” the State Department said.
The charges against Velazquez contained few details. The Treasury Department said only that the vice president “engaged in corrupt conduct to interfere with legal processes and protect himself and his criminal associates from criminal investigation”, including bribing and threatening officials to ensure So that their illegal activities do not come to light.
The United States also claimed that “representatives of Cartes and Velazquez accepted bribes” at private events hosted by Hezbollah in Paraguay.