Paraguay’s vice president to stay on after corruption accusations

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Hugo Velazquez reverses his decision to resign after the US last week accused him of involvement in ‘significant’ corruption.

The vice president of Paraguay has reversed a plan to resign this week, saying he will not give up his post until he has details of the United States’s corruption claims against him.

Hugo Velazquez told reporters on Thursday that he had initially offered to resign last week as he “assumed” there was a domestic investigation against him.

But on Wednesday, he received notice from the Paraguay prosecutor’s office stating “that there is no case against me”, Velazquez said.

“I had mentioned when I spoke with you that I was going to resign from office … in order to go and defend myself as a common citizen,” Velazquez told a local radio station.

“Yesterday afternoon I found out that the Public Ministry decided to ask the United States Embassy for the facts about the complaint against me. Today, I do not have a platform to defend myself because there is no investigation in the United States either,” he added.

Last Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a Velazquez associate had offered a bribe to a Paraguayan public official to “obstruct an investigation that threatened the Vice President and his financial interests”.

Blinken said Velazquez would be barred from entering the US due to his “involvement in significant corruption, including bribery of a public official and interference in public processes”.

“Corrupt acts such as these also contribute to diminished confidence in the government and public perceptions of corruption and impunity within the office of the Paraguayan Vice President,” the top US diplomat said in a statement.

The accusation unleashed a political earthquake in Paraguay, where Velazquez was set to be the government’s presidential candidate in primary elections for the conservative Colorado Party in December.

Velazquez, who has denied wrongdoing, nevertheless renounced his candidacy and said he would leave the vice presidency this week.

But while the 54-year-old on Thursday said he would not resign as vice president now, he also said in a statement that his decision not to be a presidential candidate is “immovable”.

In July, the US also announced a ban on former Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, accusing the businessman-turned-politician of corruption and links to “terrorist” groups.

Cartes’ political movement will face Velazquez’s in the primaries and the winner will be a candidate for the general elections scheduled for April 2023. Cartes’ candidate, former minister Santiago Pena, is still in the running.

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