CIA deputy director meets Paraguay's Abdo in rare visit

Paraguay President Mario Abdo Benitez attends a forum in Taipei
Paraguay President Mario Abdo Benitez speaks at the opening ceremony of the Empower Women Empower LAC Forum in Taipei, Taiwan February 15, 2023. REUTERS/I-Hwa Cheng

ASUNCION, March 29 (Reuters) - U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Deputy Director David Cohen has met with Paraguayan President Mario Abdo to discuss strengthening cooperation over security ahead of crunch elections in the South American country, Abdo said.

Abdo said on Twitter on Wednesday that he had received Cohen in Paraguay but did not say when the previously unannounced meeting had taken place.

The U.S. Embassy in Paraguay wrote that the meeting "took place within the framework of robust bilateral cooperation" between the two countries and that "shared strategies for combating global threats were addressed".

Cohen's visit drew attention in a country that rarely receives high-ranking officials from outside the region. It is preparing to hold elections on April 30, which could determine the country's diplomatic ties with Taiwan and China.

Abdo traveled on Tuesday to the United States, where he plans to tour a military base in Tampa, Florida, among other activities. Paraguayan Foreign Minister Julio Arriola met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Monday.

The flurry of meetings also come weeks after the U.S. Treasury imposed economic sanctions on Paraguay's ex-President Horacio Cartes and current vice president Hugo Velázquez, alleging that they engaged in "significant" acts of corruption.

The two powerful members of the ruling Colorado party, have denied the allegations.

Abdo is not running for reelection, though his party is hoping to fend off a growing challenge from a broad opposition coalition.

Reporting by Daniela Desantis; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Cynthia Osterman

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