The United States implicated former Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019) in acts of "significant" corruption and declared him and his family "ineligible" to enter that country, the State Department reported on Thursday.
A statement from the United States embassy in Panama indicated that the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, made the designation against Varela for "accepting bribes in exchange for inappropriately granting government contracts when he served as president and vice president."
In January, the US government made the same accusation against Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014). Varela, 59, was Martinelli's vice president and his foreign minister.
The accusation against both ex-presidents would allude to the case of multimillion-dollar bribes delivered by the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht to access large contracts and other favors in Panama. Both ex-leaders must face a trial in that case soon, along with other defendants.
Martinelli is also awaiting a judge's verdict in a money laundering case. The 71-year-old ex-governor aspires to seek a new term in next year's general elections.
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