Paraguayan Vice President Hugo Velazquez announces resignation following corruption allegations

Paraguay’s Vice-President Hugo Velazquez addresses the media in Asuncion, Paraguay.

Paraguayan Vice President Hugo Velazquez on Friday said he would resign and withdraw his candidacy for the presidency, after being blacklisted by the United States for alleged “significant” acts of corruption.

Velazquez denied the accusation but said that, to protect his party, he would submit his resignation next week.

“I speak with the calm that my behavior gives me, because I did not do what they are accusing me of,” he told local radio station Monumental. “I am speaking with a clear conscience.”

Earlier on Friday, the U.S. State Department accused Velazquez of involvement in significant acts of corruption.

A statement from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Valazquez’ associate Juan Carlos Duarte had offered a bribe to a Paraguayan public official to “obstruct an investigation that threatened the Vice President and his financial interests.”

The offered bribe was above $1 million, the U.S. ambassador to Paraguay, Marc Ostfield, said in a statement.

Responding to the news Friday, Paraguayan President Mario Abdo told journalists:

“Given the circumstances, continuing the candidacy of the vice president was unacceptable … I say it with pain because he is a friend, a colleague”.

Valazquez’ associate, Duarte, said he had also resigned and would cooperate with authorities, but did not comment directly on the accusations.

“It surprises me. I’m going to make myself available to them (and) ask for the relevant information,” he said, adding he had resigned because “it is a public position and I have to honor the institutions.”

Velazquez and Duarte’s immediate family members were also blacklisted in Blinken’s statement.

The State Department in July accused former Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes of “significant corruption” and of obstructing a cross-border criminal investigation.

He dismissed the accusations at the time as “unfounded and unjust.”

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