USA on Thursday issued sanctions against the former Paraguayan president Horace Cartes Jara and against the current vice president Hugo Velazquez Morenoand revealed explosive allegations that the two men were involved in extensive corruption schemes and have ties to members of a terrorist organization.
The former president and vice president have been involved in “systemic corruption that has undermined Paraguay’s democratic institutions” and have ties to members of Hezbollaha group that the United States designates as a terrorist organization, said the US Treasury Department.
LOOK HERE: Horacio Cartes: The United States sanctions the former president of Paraguay for corruption
As a result, “these two people are now not allowed to use the US financial system”, commented marc ostfieldUS ambassador to Paraguay, during a press conference.
Cartes and Velázquez were placed on a US corruption list last year, but now the accusations against them have increased. The Treasury Department also issued sanctions against four companies owned or controlled by Cartes: Tobacco USA, US drinks, Dominican Acquisition Y Chajha Refrigerator.
Velázquez commented that he is “surprised” by the accusations against him and denied “categorically and emphatically that this has happened”, adding that he is not aware of the details and has asked the United States for more information on the matter.
“I have absolutely no link to Hezbollah… or any other terrorist group.”, the vice president commented on Thursday to a local radio station. He pointed out that he does not plan to resign.
“I was elected by the Paraguayan people“, said.
Cartes did not comment on the sanctions for now, but he denied allegations of corruption by the United States last year. “I deny and reject the content of the accusationsCartes tweeted in July 2022, noting that he was “committed to offering all the support and first-source information that the authorities need to clarify the issues that question us”.
The United States has long claimed that the border region between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay is a hub for financing terrorism through the laundering of money from illicit activities. The United States has identified what it has described as members of Hezbollah using shell companies in the region to finance terrorist activities in the Middle East.
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The State Department has said that corruption in Paraguay often prevents convictions in money laundering and terrorist financing cases.
letters, “one of the richest people in Paraguay” and who held the presidency from 2013 to 2018, “has engaged in a concerted pattern of corruption, including widespread bribery of government officials and legislators”, the US State Department said on Thursday.
The sanctions announced Thursday quickly rocked Paraguay’s political world, with opposition lawmakers demanding investigations into Cartes, Velázquez and all lawmakers who may have received bribes.
On his way to becoming president, Cartes doled out cash to officials, a pattern that continued throughout his presidency and after he left office, according to US officials.
First, after Cartes joined the Colorado Party in 2009, he bribed officials to convince them to drop a party requirement that a person had to be a party member for 10 years to run for president. He later paid some party members up to $10,000 to back 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 over Congress. Those payments continued after he left office to ensure lawmakers vote in his interests, the Treasury Department added.
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Overall, the former president, who continues to lead the Colorado Party, has “exploited his illicitly acquired wealth and influence to expand his political and economic power over Paraguayan institutions”, stated the State Department.
The accusations against Velázquez contained fewer details. The Treasury Department only said that the vice president “has also engaged in corrupt practices to interfere with legal processes and protect himself and his criminal associates from criminal investigations”, including bribing and threatening officials to ensure that their illicit activity did not come to light.
The United States also stated that “representatives of Cartes and Velázquez have accepted bribes” at private events held by Hezbollah in Paraguay.
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