Paraguay’s vice president to stay on after corruption accusations | Politics News

Hugo Velazquez reverses his determination to resign after the US final week accused him of involvement in ‘vital’ corruption.

The vp of Paraguay has reversed a plan to resign this week, saying he is not going to hand over his submit till he has particulars of the US’s corruption claims in opposition to him.

Hugo Velazquez advised reporters on Thursday that he had initially provided to resign final week as he “assumed” there was a home investigation in opposition to him.

However on Wednesday, he acquired discover from the Paraguay prosecutor’s workplace stating “that there isn’t any case in opposition to me”, Velazquez stated.

“I had talked about after I spoke with you that I used to be going to resign from workplace … so as to go and defend myself as a standard citizen,” Velazquez advised an area radio station.

“Yesterday afternoon I discovered that the Public Ministry determined to ask the US Embassy for the info in regards to the criticism in opposition to me. Right this moment, I don’t have a platform to defend myself as a result of there isn’t any investigation in the US both,” he added.

Final Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated a Velazquez affiliate had provided a bribe to a Paraguayan public official to “impede an investigation that threatened the Vice President and his monetary pursuits”.

Blinken stated Velazquez can be barred from coming into the US resulting from his “involvement in vital corruption, together with bribery of a public official and interference in public processes”.

“Corrupt acts resembling these additionally contribute to diminished confidence within the authorities and public perceptions of corruption and impunity inside the workplace of the Paraguayan Vice President,” the highest US diplomat stated in a statement.

The accusation unleashed a political earthquake in Paraguay, the place Velazquez was set to be the federal government’s presidential candidate in major elections for the conservative Colorado Get together in December.

Velazquez, who has denied wrongdoing, however renounced his candidacy and stated he would go away the vice presidency this week.

However whereas the 54-year-old on Thursday stated he wouldn’t resign as vp now, he additionally stated in an announcement that his determination to not be a presidential candidate is “immovable”.

In July, the US additionally introduced a ban on former Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, accusing the businessman-turned-politician of corruption and hyperlinks to “terrorist” teams.

Cartes’ political motion will face Velazquez’s within the primaries and the winner can be a candidate for the final elections scheduled for April 2023. Cartes’ candidate, former minister Santiago Pena, continues to be within the working.

Paraguay’s vice president to resign following US corruption claim | Corruption News

Hugo Velazquez Moreno has mentioned he’ll resign and finish his plans to run for president, however plans to battle the accusations.

Paraguay’s Vice President Hugo Velazquez Moreno has mentioned he’ll resign following allegations of corruption by the US.

US Ambassador to Paraguay Marc Ostfield introduced Friday morning that Velazquez was included in a corruption listing for allegedly providing bribes to a public official. Velazquez has mentioned he’ll resign subsequent week so he can defend himself towards the allegations.

“It actually hit me like a bucket of chilly water,” Velazquez mentioned throughout an interview with a neighborhood radio station. “I don’t know what he’s referring to as a result of he didn’t give too many particulars.”

The announcement has jolted the political scene in Paraguay, the place Velazquez was a member of President Mario Abdo Benitez’s administration and was anticipated to run as a presidential candidate for the Colorado Occasion in subsequent yr’s elections.

Shortly after Ostfield made the announcement, Velazquez acknowledged he was harmless however mentioned he would drop his candidacy and tender his resignation to Congress subsequent week.

Juan Carlos Duarte, a former prosecutor who’s an in depth affiliate of Velazquez, was additionally included within the corruption listing.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned that Velazquez had taken half in “important corruption, together with bribery of a public official and interference in public processes,” in a information launch on Friday.

Particularly, Blinken alleged that Duarte supplied a bribe of greater than $1m to a public official so as to hinder an investigation that threatened Velazquez and his “monetary pursuits”.

Ostfield claimed that the designation has “nothing to do with politics” and that the US will proceed to collaborate with the Benitez administration on areas of mutual curiosity.

Because of the designations, Velazquez, Duarte and their speedy members of the family are banned from coming into the US.

Velazquez has mentioned he’s “fully and completely” at nighttime concerning the allegations detailed by Ostfield, and has mentioned he’ll resign so as to “exit like a typical citizen to defend what I feel is an injustice”.

Duarte, Velazquez’s affiliate, can also be authorized counsel for the entity that operates the Yacyreta Dam, collectively owned by Paraguay and neighbouring Argentina.

“Duarte’s act of corruption abused and exploited his highly effective and privileged public place inside the Yacyreta Bi-Nationwide Entity, risking public confidence in certainly one of Paraguay’s most significant financial belongings,” the US Division of State mentioned.

The allegations come a number of weeks after Paraguay’s former president Horacio Manuel Cartes was included in a US corruption listing for involvement in “important corruption”.

Cartes was in workplace between 2013 and 2018, and Blinken accused him of obstructing a global investigation into transnational crime “so as to shield himself and his prison affiliate from potential prosecution and political injury”. The US additionally accused Cartes of ties to a terrorist organisation however didn’t supply specifics.

Five takeaways from President Biden’s first trip to Middle East | Joe Biden News

Washington, DC – America “is not going to stroll away” from the Center East, US President Joe Biden reaffirmed to allies throughout his journey to the area final week.

The journey to Israel and Saudi Arabia got here at a time of worldwide and domestic crises for the US president, who had promised to strengthen “promising tendencies” in a “much less pressurized” Center East.

“America goes to stay an energetic, engaged associate within the Center East,” Biden informed Arab leaders throughout a summit within the Saudi metropolis of Jeddah on Saturday.

All through the four-day journey, Biden reaffirmed previous commitments to allies and pushed for the acceleration of shifts already in movement, together with Israeli-Arab normalisation.

Listed below are 5 key takeaways from Biden’s first go to to the Center East as president.

Biden places on pro-Israel show

From the second he landed at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Biden made a collection of pronouncements reaffirming Washington’s dedication to Israel’s safety and his personal affinity for the nation.

Biden urged that he identifies as a Zionist, echoing earlier feedback he has made over time. “I did say and I say once more, you needn’t be a Jew to be a Zionist,” he said.

He added that the US-Israeli connection is “bone deep”.

As he heaped reward on Israel, Biden didn’t overtly press for concessions regarding Palestinians in engagements with Israeli officers. In response to public statements, there have been no criticisms of settlements, no requires permitting Washington to open a consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem, and no pushes for accountability for the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

As he headed to occupied East Jerusalem and the West Financial institution, Biden struck a extra balanced tone with out explicitly criticising Israel. Final Friday, he appeared to liken the plight of Palestinians to that of Irish individuals who struggled beneath British colonialism.

“My background and the background of my household is Irish American, and now we have a protracted historical past not basically not like the Palestinian folks with Nice Britain,” he informed a Palestinian viewers in East Jerusalem.

In the course of the go to, Biden pledged $100m in further help to hospitals that serve Palestinians within the holy metropolis. And after a gathering with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he also said Washington would proceed to “insist on a full and clear accounting” of the killing of Abu Akleh, who was fatally shot by Israeli forces in Could.

However the US president didn’t decide to an impartial probe or meet with the slain journalist’s family – as Abu Akleh’s kinfolk had requested – throughout his go to.

US, Israel current united entrance towards Iran

Whereas US officers say they’re dedicated to reviving the Iran nuclear deal and Israel overtly opposes the settlement, Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid displayed a united entrance towards Tehran final week.

The 2 leaders signed a joint declaration pledging to by no means permit Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, with Washington vowing to maintain the US dedication to Israel’s safety “bipartisan and sacrosanct”.

“America stresses that integral to this pledge is the dedication by no means to permit Iran to accumulate a nuclear weapon, and that it’s ready to make use of all components of its nationwide energy to make sure that final result,” the joint assertion, launched on July 14, reads. Tehran denies in search of nuclear arms.

Requested days earlier by Israel’s Channel 12 information whether or not he would use drive towards Iran to forestall it from buying a nuclear weapon, Biden said, “If that was the final resort, sure.”

The US president additionally dominated out eradicating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the US record of “overseas terrorist organizations” even when it means killing the 2015 nuclear pact, which noticed Iran cut back its nuclear programme in alternate for the lifting of sanctions towards its economic system.

Biden later stated he continues to imagine that “diplomacy is one of the best ways” to make sure a nuclear weapons-free Iran.

Imad Harb, director of analysis and evaluation on the Arab Heart Washington DC, stated that whereas the US dedication on Iran will not be fully new, spelling it out in such a means at a time when the nuclear talks are stalling will increase the probabilities of confrontation with Tehran.

“You received’t permit Iran to have nuclear weapons. However but on the identical time, you haven’t been capable of attain an settlement with Iran on the nuclear file,” Harb stated of Biden.

“So what does that imply? Are we, the USA, tip-toeing right into a navy confrontation with Iran based mostly on Israeli perceptions of risk? Or is the USA actually really threatening as a result of it feels that Iran is arriving on the nuclear breakout or nuclear weapons?”

Push for normalisation turns incremental

Biden made it clear earlier than leaving on his trip that pushing for normalisation between Israel and Arab international locations – significantly Saudi Arabia – could be a high precedence.

Saudi officers had beforehand stated they’d not normalise with Israel absent of a viable Palestinian state. And so throughout his go to, Biden pushed for incremental normalising gestures between the 2 international locations that fall wanting absolutely establishing diplomatic relations.

When he was in Israel, Biden introduced that Saudi Arabia has agreed to open its airspace to all air carriers, together with Israeli planes, hailing the transfer as “historic”.

Washington additionally helped safe an settlement to switch two Red Sea islands from Egyptian to Saudi sovereignty, which required Israeli consent. Biden portrayed the pact as a significant achievement, describing it as a “historic deal to remodel a flashpoint on the coronary heart of the Center East wars into an space of peace”.

Whereas Biden was not in a position so as to add new international locations to the normalisation agreements, referred to as the “Abraham Accords” and brokered by his predecessor Donald Trump, he pushed on with US requires regional financial and safety integration that would come with Israel.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman fist bumps U.S. President Joe Biden
Biden met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the primary time as US president [Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Royal Court via Reuters]

MBS fist bump stirs criticism, debate

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince was exterior the royal palace in Jeddah when Biden’s presidential limousine arrived.

Biden took a number of steps out of the automobile, clutching either side of his blazer – in an obvious effort to button it up – with one hand. Because the crown prince approached, Biden prolonged an arm with a clenched fist in the direction of him.

The 2 leaders bumped fists – not an unusual greeting within the age of COVID-19 – and exchanged smiles as they walked into the constructing.

The second ended the estrangement between the US president and de facto Saudi chief, whom the US intelligence group accuses of being behind the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia has stated that the killing of Khashoggi on the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018 was a rogue operation that occurred with out the approval or data of high officers, together with bin Salman (recognized by his initials, MBS). The dominion additionally says it tried and convicted these accountable for the homicide.

However Biden, who referred to as Saudi Arabia a “pariah” as a candidate, initially refused to interact instantly with MBS, with the White Home saying that the US president would conduct relations along with his counterpart, King Salman.

Now, the proverbial ice between Biden and MBS has been damaged.

The US president stated he brought up the killing of Khashoggi in a gathering with the crown prince and different Saudi officers, however rights teams have been fast to criticise the president over the encounter.

Fred Ryan – the writer of the Washington Publish newspaper, the place Khashoggi labored on the time of his loss of life – referred to as the fist bump “shameful”, and the Committee to Defend Journalists said it was “appalled” by Biden’s “failure” to carry the crown prince accountable.

Nonetheless, many mainstream commentators in Washington defended Biden, with some citing the essential points that the US and Saudi Arabia should deal with collectively – together with oil and Iran.

“Critics of [Biden] journey to KSA get 2 issues fallacious. First, you must take care of the leaders that exist, not ones you like. 2nd, what issues will not be ‘deliverables’ however constructing a relationship w Saudi leaders that can permit the two international locations to collaborate on Iran, Israel, oil, and so on,” Richard Haass, president of the Council on Overseas Relations, wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

Harb, of the Arab Heart, said Biden might have wished to keep away from a handshake with the crown prince, however there was no solution to escape the visuals of being with MBS on the go to.

“The problem is how would Mohammed bin Salman take it. It appears to be like like he’s taking it as an admission that the US president was fallacious, in addition to an American recognition of his management,” Harb informed Al Jazeera.

Discussions for extra oil, however nothing concrete

As a lot as Biden and his high aides pressured over the previous weeks that the journey to the Center East was not about oil, specialists have argued that the energy crisis is driving the president’s journey.

The journey didn’t end in an express settlement to spice up manufacturing from the dominion to tame oil costs that skyrocketed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However Biden appeared optimistic when addressing the problem.

“We had a great dialogue on making certain world vitality safety and sufficient oil provides to help world financial development, and that can start shortly,” Biden informed reporters after talks with Saudi officers, including that Riyadh shares “the urgency” about the necessity to deal with the vitality disaster.

In a joint assertion on Friday, Washington and Riyadh “reaffirmed their dedication to a steady world vitality market”. The White Home later stated the 2 international locations finalised a number of bilateral agreements, together with on vitality safety, with out offering particulars.

Oil costs had been step by step going down since earlier than Biden’s journey. The US president stated on Friday that it is going to be “one other couple weeks” earlier than the potential results of his go to to Saudi Arabia are seen by US gas shoppers on the pump.

Sri Lanka protesters staying put until president, PM leave office | Protests News

1000’s occupying the presidential palace are decided to remain till each the president and PM step down formally.

Protesters in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo proceed to occupy the places of work of the president and prime minister for a second consecutive day, vowing they are going to keep put till each formally have resigned.

Decided to see the nation’s prime leaders step down amid an unprecedented financial disaster, hundreds of individuals stormed the president’s residence on Saturday and later set fireplace to the prime minister’s home, forcing the 2 leaders into hiding.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe stated he’ll go away workplace as soon as a brand new authorities is in place, whereas Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena stated President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 73, would step down as president on Wednesday.

However protesters are refusing to budge till the 2 leaders have formally left their posts.

“Our wrestle isn’t over,” pupil chief Lahiru Weerasekara instructed reporters on Sunday.

“We gained’t hand over this wrestle till he truly leaves.”

Playwright Ruwanthie de Chickera instructed a information convention on the foremost protest website in Colombo: “The president has to resign, the prime minister has to resign and the federal government has to go”.

Flanked by different leaders serving to coordinate the motion in opposition to the federal government, she stated the crowds wouldn’t transfer out of the official residences of the president and prime minister till then.

Photos of individuals swimming in President Rajapaksa’s pool and working on the treadmills of his personal fitness center have gone viral the world over, marking a dramatic finish to the highly effective Rajapaksa clan’s two-decade-long maintain over Sri Lankan politics.

“I’m right here as a result of we have now to discover what sort of issues they’ve finished with our tax cash …  politicians ought to perceive the facility of individuals,” a protester contained in the president’s residence instructed Al Jazeera.

Ahilan Kadirgamar, a senior lecturer on the College of Jaffna, famous that protesters had been backed by folks throughout the entire nation, which has been rocked by harsh financial situations from north to south.

“Farmers will not be having the ability to domesticate, fisherman haven’t been in a position to go to the ocean … so help for regime change is island vast,” Kadirgamar stated.  “The president and the prime minister have been delegitimised all through the nation.”

Demonstrators sleep in a bedroom at the President's house, on the following day after demonstrators entered the building, after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled, amid the country's economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka July 10, 2022
Demonstrators sleep in a bed room on the president’s home the day after demonstrators entered the constructing in Colombo, Sri Lanka [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

Strain on each males

Opposition events had been assembly within the capital on Sunday to agree on a brand new authorities. On the identical day, an announcement from the president’s workplace stated that Rajapaksa had ordered officers to start out speedy distribution of a cooking gasoline consignment, suggesting that he was nonetheless at work.

Strain on each the president and  prime minister has grown because the nation’s financial meltdown has led to acute shortages of important objects, leaving folks struggling to acquire meals, gasoline and different requirements.

Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister in Might in an effort to resolve the shortages and begin financial restoration.

Wickremesinghe had been a part of essential talks with the IMF for a bailout programme and with the World Meals Programme to arrange for a predicted meals disaster.

Protesters stay and play cards in prime minister's official residence a day after it was stormed in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Protesters keep and play playing cards within the prime minister’s official residence a day after it was stormed in Colombo, Sri Lanka [Eranga Jayawardena/Reuters]

‘Hazardous’ job

Political analyst Aruna Kulatunga stated whoever takes on the duty of stabilising Sri Lanka, it won’t solely be a tough but additionally a “hazardous” job.

“The various pitfalls forward may embrace selections to be made on whether or not or not we go for an IMF-backed debt rescheduling or will we merely resolve to be a pariah state and easily cease acknowledging our debt to the remainder of the world,” he instructed Al Jazeera.

Or, Sri Lanka’s future chief may “search refuge in geopolitical gamesmanship by requesting assist from different nations who will not be within the mainstay of worldwide economics”, Kulatunga stated.

The financial disaster in Sri Lanka started earlier this 12 months after the federal government suspended compensation of overseas loans as a result of a overseas forex scarcity. The nation is holding bailout talks with the Worldwide Financial Fund (IMF) and counting on assist from India and different nations.

Many imagine the much-anticipated IMF bailout could possibly be delayed as a result of political disaster.

IMF officers instructed reporters they had been hoping for the scenario in Sri Lanka to enhance.

“We’re intently monitoring the continuing developments in Sri Lanka. We hope for a decision of the present scenario that may enable for resumption of our dialogue,” the IMF stated.

Sri Lanka’s president: Civil war victor brought down by protests | News

Sri Lanka’s Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who oversaw a ruthless crushing of the Tamil Tigers to convey an finish to the nation’s long-running civil battle and went on to turn out to be president, seems set to be pressured from workplace following months of protests.

After the dramatic storming of the president’s official residence by 1000’s of protesters on Saturday, the speaker of parliament mentioned in a video assertion that Rajapaksa had knowledgeable him that he would step down on July 13.

There was no fast phrase from Rajapaksa himself.

Protesters later broke into the house of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and set it on fireplace.

Not like his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who dominated Sri Lankan politics for almost 20 years in stints as president and prime minister, Gotabaya didn’t set out for a life in authorities.

As an alternative, he joined the military on the age of 21, serving for 20 years and rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Taking early retirement he emigrated to the US, the place he labored in info expertise.

Gotabaya’s entry into politics got here when Mahinda grew to become Sri Lanka’s president in 2005 and tapped him as defence secretary, placing him answerable for the battle towards the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a insurgent group that was preventing for an unbiased state within the north of the nation.

After 26 years of battle, the Tigers ultimately conceded defeat in 2009 following a ferocious authorities offensive through which the United Nations has estimated as many as 40,000 Tamil civilians have been killed within the ultimate few months of the battle alone.

The federal government countered that the rebels stored 1000’s of civilians as human shields, exacerbating the loss of life toll.

Whereas Gotabaya was seen as a battle hero by most of the island’s Sinhalese Buddhist majority, others accused him of battle crimes together with killings, torture and the disappearances of presidency critics – costs he persistently denied.

Although he stepped down in 2015 when Mahinda misplaced energy, the Rajapaksas have been capable of step again into the political limelight after coordinated bombings killed greater than 250 individuals on Easter Sunday 2019. Native armed teams allegedly affiliated with ISIL (ISIS) have been blamed for the assaults.

With Mahinda barred from standing as a result of a two-term restrict, that left Gotabaya as the apparent candidate to characterize the Rajapaksa household and their Sri Lanka Podujana Celebration.

Prioritising nationwide safety

Within the wake of the assaults, Gotabaya was scathing of the then-government, claiming it had dismantled a complete intelligence community he had arrange throughout the civil battle.

“They didn’t give precedence to nationwide safety,” he instructed Reuters every week after the bombings when asserting his presidential run.

“They have been speaking about ethnic reconciliation, then they have been speaking about human rights points, they have been speaking about particular person freedoms,” he mentioned.

Gotabaya gained the November 2019 ballot by a large margin, and promised to characterize all Sri Lankans no matter their ethnic and spiritual identification.

His marketing campaign was little affected by two lawsuits in the US that accused him of involvement within the abduction and homicide of a journalist, in addition to being complicit within the torture of a person belonging to the ethnic Tamil neighborhood.

He referred to as the lawsuits baseless.

In August 2020, his occasion elevated its majority to two-thirds in parliament, permitting for a repeal of legal guidelines limiting presidential energy – together with the two-term restrict.

He reappointed Mahinda as prime minister and a slew of different kinfolk into ministerial roles, cementing the Rajapaksa household as one of the crucial dominant in Sri Lanka’s post-independence historical past.

However the household’s grip on energy didn’t final lengthy.

Hit arduous by the COVID-19 pandemic and populist tax cuts, Sri Lanka fell into its worst financial disaster for the reason that finish of colonial rule. Shortages of necessities and rampant inflation introduced 1000’s to the streets in months of protests this yr.

Mahinda stepped down as prime minister after a bunch of his supporters attacked anti-government protesters on Could 9, leaving Gotabaya an more and more remoted determine, hardly ever leaving his residence as unrest intensified.

Protesters stormed Gotabaya’s residence on Saturday and in addition set fireplace to the prime minister’s dwelling in Colombo.

Neither have been of their residences on the time.

Two defence ministry sources mentioned Rajapaksa had left the official residence on Friday earlier than the deliberate weekend demonstration and Reuters couldn’t instantly affirm his whereabouts.