The US State Department has added three Paraguayan nationals to its list of significantly corrupt officials just one day after signing a new arrangement with the South American country whereby military engineers would assist in future waterway developments.
Those made ineligible for US travel visas and other measures were former National Directorate of Civil Aeronautics (Dinac) head Edgar Melgarejo, Magistracy Councilman Jorge Bogarín Alfonso, also a member of the Jury for the Impeachment of Magistrates (JEM), and Judiciary official Vicente Andrés Ferreira Rodríguez.
The former president of Dinac would have used public funds for his own benefit in the so-called gold mouthpieces case. US Ambassador Marc Ostfield said the former official damaged the government's fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, while Bogarín and Ferreira were reported by local media to have undermined the independence and impartiality of the Judiciary. The three of them and their spouses and children are no longer eligible to enter US territory, it was explained. They have joined the list already featuring former President Horacio Cartes and current Vice President Hugo Velázquez.
Ostfield's announcement regarding the corrupt officials came one day after he and Foreign Minister Julio Arriola signed a memorandum of understanding consisting of a master plan for the navigability of the Paraguay River with studies to be designed and executed with technical support from the US Corps of Engineers.
During his presidency, Cartes had already had such plans but had to recant following Argentina's objections to Washington's plans to have a military detachment in the area, although the White House did manage to increase its presence through triangulation with Taiwan for the sending of scanners and other security devices to Paraguayan authorities.
The document now needs to be ratified by Paraguay's Parliament and it will be one of the issues at stake at the upcoming April 30 elections. If the bill reaches the Senate, it will be approved, according to Asunción sources quoted by local and Argentine media.
The document aims at the elaboration of a master plan to improve navigation and includes the formulation, evaluation, comparison, and selection of economically viable, socially and environmentally sustainable, as well as technically sound alternatives for the navigability of the Paraguay river, Paraguay's Foreign Ministry explained in a statement. The elaboration of the master plan contemplates studies on the navigable waterway and does not foresee the execution of works, it went on. The reality demands to redouble efforts to achieve the best conditions for the transportation through this main river to increase in capacity and efficiency. The Foreign Ministry also pointed out that it was necessary to carry out studies to facilitate navigation and commercial river transport, favor development, modernize, and provide efficiency to such operations and thus ensure access under competitive conditions to overseas markets.
The project will involve an investment of US$ 20 million, to be executed in a period of four years, according to Asunción's Ministry of Public Works and Communications (MOPC).
The Paraguay River is one of the main components of the Paraguay-Parana waterway, 'a regional integration system of high logistic and strategic value, and constitutes a fundamental way for the performance of national foreign trade,' considering that the volume transported through this river corridor represents about 80% of the country's imports and exports, Última Hora outlined.