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LATAM POLITICS TODAY-U.S. accuses Paraguay's ex-president Cartes of corruption

·3 min read

* Colombia's Petro taps corruption expert for defense minister

* Bolsonaro not swayed by Zelenskiy call

* Mexico eyes 'mutually satisfactory' solution to trade spat

* Biden meeting with Argentine President Fernandez on hold

July 22 (Reuters) - The latest in Latin American politics today:

U.S. accuses Paraguay's Cartes of 'significant corruption'

ASUNCION - The United States accused former Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes of "significant corruption" on Friday.

"Former President Cartes obstructed a major international investigation into transnational crime in order to protect himself and his criminal associate from potential prosecution and political damage," a statement from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said without identifying the associate.

Cartes rejected the accusations in a post on Twitter. Dismissing them as "unfounded and unjust," he offered to provide information to U.S. authorities to clear up the matter.

President from 2013 to 2018, Cartes recently announced his bid to lead the ruling Colorado Party and his faction's candidate had been tipped to win a December election.

Internationally lauded jurist tapped as Colombian defense minister

BOGOTA - Colombia's incoming leftist President Gustavo Petro named Ivan Velasquez, a former assistant judge in the Supreme Court of Justice, as his defense minister.

Velasquez is also known for his former role as commissioner of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), the U.N.-backed entity responsible for investigations that brought down Guatemala's president and vice president in 2015.

Petro, who takes office on Aug. 7, is a critic of Colombia's military establishment and ex-member of the M-19 guerrillas. He has pledged that security personnel accused of human rights violations will stand trial in regular courts rather than the military ones that have traditionally doled out lighter sentences.

Bolsonaro reaffirms Brazil won't sanction Russia

SAO PAULO - President Jair Bolsonaro restated that Brazil will not join sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

"We will not join these economic sanctions, we remain neutral. If I had not kept a balanced position do you think we would have fertilizers in Brazil?" the president told reporters during a visit to a gas station in the capital Brasilia.

Bolsonaro said that he told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a call they had on Monday that he would not comply with his request to adopt a tougher stance against Russia.

Mexican official optimistic about USMCA trade dispute

MEXICO CITY - Mexico's Deputy Economy Minister Luz Maria de la Mora told Reuters she hopes for a "mutually satisfactory solution" to talks requested by the United States and Canada over what they claim are Mexican energy-related breaches of a regional trade pact.

The U.S. and Canadian demands come after years of concern among those nations' private firms that Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's drive to tighten the state's grip on the oil and power sectors treated them unfairly and was in violation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

"We want to take advantage of this consultation phase ... to see how we can reach a mutually satisfactory solution through an open, frank and constructive dialogue, which will allow us to overcome these differences," De la Mora told Reuters in an interview.

Biden's meeting with Alberto Fernandez will have to wait

U.S. President Joe Biden's meeting with Argentine counterpart Alberto Fernandez, scheduled for Tuesday in Washington, has been postponed following Biden's COVID-19 diagnosis, local media reported.

No date was given for the meeting, which had been scheduled after the two presidents spoke by phone in early June ahead of the Summit of the Americas. (Compiled by Brendan O'Boyle and Peter Siquiera; editing by Grant McCool)