Paraguay’s Vice President Hugo Velazquez announced his resignation Friday and
pulled out of the running for next year’s presidential election after he was sanctioned
by Washington for “significant corruption.”
US Ambassador to Paraguay Marc Ostfield announced Friday morning that Velazquez
was included in a corruption list for allegedly offering bribes to a public official.
Velazquez has said he will resign next week so he can defend himself against the
“It really hit me like a bucket of cold water,” Velazquez said during an interview with
a local radio station. “I don’t know what he’s referring to because he didn’t give too
The announcement has jolted the political scene in Paraguay, where Velazquez was a
member of President Mario Abdo Benitez’s administration and was expected to run
as a presidential candidate for the Colorado Party in next year’s elections.
Shortly after Ostfield made the announcement, Velazquez stated he was innocent but
said he would drop his candidacy and tender his resignation to Congress next week.
Juan Carlos Duarte, a former prosecutor who is a close associate of Velazquez, was
also included in the corruption list.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Velazquez had taken part in
“significant corruption, including bribery of a public official and interference in
public processes,” in a news release on Friday.
Specifically, Blinken alleged that Duarte offered a bribe of more than $1m to a public
official in order to obstruct an investigation that threatened Velazquez and his
Ostfield claimed that the designation has “nothing to do with politics” and that the
US will continue to collaborate with the Benitez administration on areas of mutual
As a result of the designations, Velazquez, Duarte and their immediate family
members are banned from entering the US.
Velazquez has said he is “completely and totally” in the dark about the allegations
detailed by Ostfield, and has said he will resign in order to “go out like a common
citizen to defend what I think is an injustice”.
Duarte, Velazquez’s associate, is also legal counsel for the entity that operates the
Yacyreta Dam, jointly owned by Paraguay and neighbouring Argentina.
“Duarte’s act of corruption abused and exploited his powerful and privileged public
position within the Yacyreta Bi-National Entity, risking public confidence in one of
Paraguay’s most vital economic assets,” the US Department of State said.
The allegations come several weeks after Paraguay’s former president Horacio
Manuel Cartes was included in a US corruption list for involvement in “significant
Cartes was in office between 2013 and 2018, and Blinken accused him of obstructing
an international investigation into transnational crime “in order to protect himself
and his criminal associate from potential prosecution and political damage”. The US
also accused Cartes of ties to a terrorist organisation but did not offer specifics.