Former Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez has been barred from entering the United States due to his “involvement in significant corruption,” according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez, a businessman, and former Panamanian president, was born on December 13, 1963. He served as Panamanian president from 2014 to 2019. Varela served as Panama’s vice president from 2009 to 2014 and as foreign relations minister from July 2009 to August 2011. From 2006 to 2016, he served as president of the Panameistas, Panama’s third-largest political party.
In a statement issued by the State Department, Blinken said, “Today, I am announcing the designation of former Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez as generally ineligible for entry into the United States, due to his involvement in significant corruption.” The former Panamanian president Varela received bribes in exchange for deceitfully awarding government contracts while sitting as Panama’s vice president and then president.
Two former Panamanian presidents, including Varela, as well as a number of other prominent individuals were summoned to court by a judge in Panama in November on charges of money laundering in connection with the Odebrecht bribery investigation, a massive corruption investigation that had repercussions across Latin America. Beginning later this year, the trial is scheduled.
Both former Panamanian president Varela, who succeeded Martinelli as president until 2019, and Ricardo Martinelli, who presided over Panama from 2009 to 2014, were called to appear.
When the investigations started in 2020, former Panamanian presidents Varela and Martinelli were prohibited from leaving the country. Both have said they have never been criminals.
Odebrecht and its parent business, Braskem, Brazil’s largest petrochemicals firm, agreed to pay $3.5 billion in 2016 to settle bribery-related accusations brought by US, Brazilian, and Swiss officials.