OEA approves Almagro’s continuity despite criticism

With strong criticism from Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia, the Organization of American States succeeded on Friday in the continuity of its secretary general, Luis Almagro, after an external investigation revealed that he acted without common sense or good judgment when maintaining a loving relationship with a younger employee.

In a heated extraordinary session that exposed the differences between the member states, the OAS Permanent Council produced the resolution a few days after a law firm delivered the investigation report, which also concluded that Almagro did not violate the regulations. regarding his supervisory duties, salary increases, intimidation, travel, or conflicts of interest with the woman.

The resolution, which was specifically about the investigation report, was not put to a vote. Its approval, which was expected, gives continuity to the leadership of the Uruguayan who became the OAS secretariat in 2015. Almagro, who was not at the Council session, has stated that at all times he acted with “maximum transparency and putting the interests of the Organization and respecting its rules”.

The investigation was commissioned by the OAS after The Associated Press revealed in October 2022 that Almagro, 59, had a long-term relationship with a Mexican collaborator 20 years his junior. The affair, which lasted nearly four years, was an open secret and the impression emerged, both inside and outside the OAS, that the employee received preferential treatment from the Washington-based organization’s secretary general.

The investigation report specified that Almagro knew this and yet did not take steps to prevent this perception from continuing. He indicated, however, that he had not benefited her with salary increases or promotions.

The investigation focused solely on Almagro’s relationship with the woman, who is on leave and AP does not identify at the request of the OAS. A group of US legislators recently requested a more extensive investigation, alleging that there are strong suspicions of other inappropriate conduct by the Secretary General in the exercise of his duties.

The Council session was hybrid – some ambassadors were in person and others connected virtually – and was broadcast live on social networks. The only country that openly said that it did not support the resolution was El Salvador, considering that the document had had several proposals for changes and had been hastily reviewed and amended. The president of the Council, the Uruguayan ambassador Washington Abdala, said that the position of the Central American nation was going to be recorded at the bottom of the document.

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“As there are no objections, the draft resolution… is considered approved,” said Abdala.

Immediately after, Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia reiterated their questioning of Almagro’s continuity, despite not having objected to the resolution “to facilitate the process.”

“A secretary general with high ethical standards is the minimum that a serious and solid OAS requires,” said the Mexican ambassador to the OAS, Luz Elena Baños Rivas. “Despite the evidence of the damage that the general has caused to the OAS… it is surprising that we are still doubting the appropriateness of removing him from the leadership of the Organization.”

Almagro was elected leader of the OAS with almost unanimous support and from the beginning of his administration he was close to that of the United States, raising his voice against socialist governments such as those of Cuba and Venezuela. He was re-elected in 2020 and has since faced criticism over the OAS’s role in the 2019 Bolivian elections that ended with the resignation of then-President Evo Morales amid allegations of fraud by the organization’s observation mission, later criticized. by American experts and academics.

Like El Salvador, Bolivia expressed at the Council meeting on Wednesday that it did not understand the haste with which decisions were made about the leadership of the OAS and how, after years, an investigation has not yet been initiated into what It happened in your country.

“This fact that led to the death of 38 people is not investigated,” said Ambassador Héctor Arce Zaconeta. Instead of discussing a report on Almagro’s intimate relations, he said, the Council should be talking about other more important issues like Bolivia.

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