Paraguay's vice president reverses, says he won't resign yet

FILE PHOTO: Paraguay's Vice-President Hugo Velazquez addresses the media after Foreign Minister Antonio Rivas took office in Asuncion,Paraguay July 31, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

ASUNCION (Reuters) - Paraguayan Vice President Hugo Velazquez on Thursday said he will not resign until he has details of U.S. accusations against him, a reversal days after Washington accused him of having participated in acts of "significant" corruption.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said an associate of Velazquez had offered a bribe to a Paraguayan public official to "obstruct an investigation that threatened the Vice President and his financial interests."

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.

Velazquez renounced his candidacy and said he would leave the vice presidency this week. But while Velazquez on Thursday said he would not resign as vice president now, he also said in a statement that his decision not to be a presidential candidate is "immovable."

"I had mentioned when I spoke with you that I was going to resign from office ... in order to go and defend myself as a common citizen," Velazquez told a local radio station.

"Yesterday afternoon I found out that the Public Ministry decided to ask the United States Embassy for the facts about the complaint against me. Today, I do not have a platform to defend myself because there is no investigation in the United States either," he added.

At the end of July, the U.S. State Department also accused former President Horacio Cartes of involvement in "significant corruption," for having allegedly obstructed an international investigation into transnational crime.

Cartes' political movement will face Velazquez's in the primaries and the winner will be a candidate for the general elections scheduled for April 2023. Cartes' candidate, former minister Santiago Pena, is still in the running.

(Reporting by Daniela Desantis; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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