President Donald Trump on Friday, Dec. 13, welcomed President Abdo Benítez of the Republic of Paraguay to the Oval Office, affirming the bilateral and historic friendship.
The two leaders headed into private talks to focus largely on the fight against corruption and organized crime. A new trade deal is also a topic of their discussion.
“It’s great to have the President of Paraguay here. We’re doing a lot of work with Paraguay on terrorism, on drugs, on trade—a lot of different things. And we’ve had a great relationship,” President Trump said.
President Abdo replied that his visit to the White House was a “great honor” for his country.
“Thank you very much, Mr. President. It is a great honor for us to be here, for my country; I believe also for the region, Mr. President—for the one who stood firmly defending democracy in the region. And the President of Paraguay here reaffirms our bilateral and our historic friendship,” Abdo said.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) December 13, 2019
In August, the Trump administration complimented Paraguay for designating Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Hamas as terrorist organizations.
U.S. 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 Justice Department 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 United States and South America’s Mercosur trade bloc. A similar deal recently signed with the European Union remains unratified.
Their meeting came days after the Department of State imposed sanctions earlier this week on two former Paraguayan officials due to their alleged involvement in significant corruption: ex-Sen. Oscar González Daher, a former president of Paraguay’s judicial disciplinary board, and former Attorney General Javier Díaz Verón.
Includes reporting from the Associated Press