Paraguayan prosecutor launches criminal probe into vice president Hugo Velazquez

Paraguay’s Vice-President Hugo Velazquez addresses the media after Foreign Minister Antonio Rivas took office in Asuncion, Paraguay.

Paraguay’s Attorney General’s office said on Tuesday it opened a criminal investigation into Vice President Hugo Velazquez, almost two weeks after the U.S. government accused him of having committed “significant” corruption.

The Public Ministry said on Facebook that Attorney General Sandra Quinonez ordered the opening of a criminal case to investigate “the facts in relation to the statement of the U.S. ambassador, Marc Ostfield” concerning Velazquez.

The U.S. State Department said in mid-August that Velazquez was involved in significant corruption after allegedly offering a $1 million bribe to an official through a third party.

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, but then decided to renounce to his candidacy.

Later in August, Velazquez said he would stay on as vice president until he had details of the accusations against him.

At the end of July, the United States also singled out former president Horacio Cartes, one of the country’s richest men and a political adversary of Velazquez and President Mario Abdo, for having obstructed a cross-border criminal investigation to protect himself from possible prosecution

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