The vice-president of Paraguay, Hugo Velázquez, has confirmed his resignation from his post and his candidacy as pre-candidate of the Colorado Party for the Presidency of the country after being designated as a “significantly corrupt” person by the United States.
“It fell like a bucket of cold water. I don’t know what he (U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay, Marc Ostfield) was talking about. As a pre-candidate for President of the Republic, having as a speech the fight against organized crime, this makes me feel bad and I have to be consistent”, said Velázquez in Monumental 1080 AM radio station.
In that sense, he affirmed that he wants to come out as an ordinary citizen to defend what he considers an injustice and indicated “that there is a loophole in the case” that involves him.
Ostfield announced in a press conference that Velazquez obstructed an investigation that threatened him and his financial interests with a million dollar bribe.
“It was very volatile the report of an alleged bribe, I don’t know if there is a criminal case. I have no idea of the accusation. I must take care of the principles for which I have fought,” argued Velázquez, who assured to be calm. His decision to step aside seeks not to affect the entourage of President Mario Abdo Benítez or the Colorado Party.
“I speak with the tranquility that my conduct gives me, because I did not do what they are accusing me of (attempted bribery). I am speaking with a clean conscience,” Velázquez has reiterated.
The US State Department has indicated in a statement that the vice president has been sanctioned along with former prosecutor Juan Carlos Duarte for his involvement in “significant corruption offenses”, including interference in public proceedings and bribery.
Thus, he has pointed out that Duarte, a close person and partner of Velázquez, offered bribes to high-ranking Paraguayan officials to obstruct the investigation against the vice president and his financial interests. “This type of acts of corruption only contribute to undermine the confidence of the population in the government, in addition to the public perception of impunity,” the text states.
Duarte was allegedly implicated in the scandal at the Yacyretá Binational Entity, created by Paraguay and Argentina to manage a joint hydroelectric complex. According to the State Department, Duarte’s actions, which exploited his privileged position with respect to the entity, “jeopardized confidence in one of Paraguay’s main economic assets”.
The Paraguayan Constitution states that if a definitive vacancy of the vice presidency should occur during the first three years of the constitutional period, elections shall be called to fill it. However, if the resignation takes place in the last two years of the constitutional period, as is the case, it is the Congress, by absolute majority of its members, which shall designate the person who is to hold the office until the end of the period.
In addition, the Colorado Party (Asociación Nacional Republicana-Partido Colorado) will have to elect a new candidate for the general elections scheduled for April 23, 2023.