Former Paraguayan President Horacio Cartés (2013-2018) has been added to the US State Department's black list of highly corrupt individuals, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Friday in a statement.
US Ambassador to Paraguay Marc Ostfield said in a press conference that the State Department's decision means that Cartés and his immediate family members are not eligible to enter the United States. The prohibition included the children of the former president, Juan Pablo Cartés Montaña, Sofía Cartés Montaña and María Sol Cartés Montaña for obstructing an international criminal investigation.
Former President Cartés obstructs a major international transnational crime investigation to protect himself and his criminal partner from potential prosecution and political damage, Blinken argued.
We stand committed to supporting democracy and promoting accountability for corrupt officials, the State Department also said.
Cartés is under investigation by Paraguay's Money Laundering Prevention Secretariat (Seprelad) for his alleged involvement in a trafficking network.
The inquest is following a thread of documents leaked through Paraguay's Prosecutor's Office which would prove that the multiple companies of which Cartés is either the owner or the main shareholder obtained extraordinary profits from purchases and sales among themselves.
Cartés' allegedly illegal activities reportedly include cigarette smuggling to Brazil and there is even speculation of drug trafficking, white slavery, and arms trafficking. One of Cartés' tobacco shipments abroad has been linked by press reports to the Venezuelan-Iranian Emtrasur Boeing 747-300 aircraft seized by Argentine authorities at the Ezeiza airport.
The former head of state has always denied the accusations and insisted it was all about political violence.
Ambassador Ostfield launched an appeal to strengthen the fight against criminal groups that put democracies at risk. He also pledged to continue adding corrupt individuals to the US State Department's black list so long as there is evidence of any wrongdoing, because it reaffirms the US commitment to fighting corruption, which harms the public interest, hinders the economic prosperity of countries, and reduces the ability of governments to respond effectively to the needs of their people. Cartés' will not be the last blacklisting in Paraguay, Ostfield admitted.
Meanwhile, the former head of state claimed on social media these allegations were unfounded and unfair.
Legal experts insisted that the State Department's decision was merely a declaration which, besides imposing some travel restrictions on given individuals, it will not entail their criminal prosecution.
After the US sanctions, Paraguay's Prosecutor's Office said Washington's decision represents a support for the work of the institutions of the country and added that Cartés' possible involvement in different deeds that could have criminal relevance was being investigated.