Sun, Dec 15, 2019 - Page 5 News List

US Politics: Trump, Benitez discuss corruption and Venezuela

AP, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump, center right, and Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez, center left, speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Friday.

Photo: Bloomberg

It was the briefest of moments in the Washington media spotlight for Paraguan President Mario Abdo Benitez.

Sitting alongside US President Donald Trump, the South American leader spoke about a dozen words to journalists on Friday and then watched in silence as Trump fielded questions about the articles of impeachment that had just been sent to the US House of Representatives.

The two leaders then headed into private talks to focus largely on the fight against corruption and organized crime.

“We are doing a lot of work with Paraguay on terrorism, drugs, trade. A lot of different things,” Trump said.

Abdo said in English that his visit to the White House was a “great honor” for his country.

The White House after the meeting announced that the US would offer two Special Forces training events in Paraguay next year and in 2021.

It also said that the US Southern Command would conduct a regional crisis response exercise in Paraguay in 2021.

The Trump administration counts Abdo among its allies in the region. In August, it complimented Paraguay for designating Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group and Hamas as terrorist organizations.

US officials have long been concerned about smuggling and suspected terrorist money laundering in the Tri-Border Area shared between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina.

Earlier this week, the FBI and the US Department of Justice created a team to work with authorities in Paraguay, a nation of about 7 million people.

After the meeting, Abdo posted a video on Twitter in which he said he suggested a free-trade agreement between the US and South America’s Mercosur trade bloc. A similar deal recently signed with the EU remains unratified.

The White House said that the US looks forward to opening market access for Paraguayan beef and beef products once food safety and animal health can be fully assured.

Abdo’s father served as private secretary over 25 years for former Paraguayan president Alfredo Stroessner, who was in office from 1954 to 1989.

Abdo got a degree in marketing in the US.

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