The US government has imposed sanctions, in particular an entry ban, on Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez, the former president of Panama, accusing him of being involved in “corruption”, according to a press release personally signed by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and was released by his services at the State Department yesterday Thursday.

“While serving as vice president and then president of Panama,” Mr. Varela “accepted bribes in exchange for the abusive awarding of government contracts,” he explains in the text.

A Panamanian judge in November indicted two former presidents, including Mr. Varela, as well as several other prominent political figures in the Central American country, on trial for money laundering.

The case is connected to the much-lauded scandal of the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which has swept the political scene in various South American states.

The trial is expected to begin later this year.

Former president Riccardo Martinelli (2009-2014) and his vice-president and later successor to the presidency Juan Varela (2014-2019) will sit in the dock of the accused.

To Messrs. Varela and Martinelli were banned from leaving the country in 2020, when an investigation began to be conducted against them. Both deny doing anything illegal.

Odebrecht and its parent Braskem – Brazil’s largest petrochemical company – agreed in 2016 to pay $3.5 billion to drop bribery charges against them by US prosecutors and regulators. of Switzerland and Brazil itself.

The scandal spread to a number of countries where Odebrecht operated, including Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia.