Are these Luis Almagro’s Last Days as Head of the OAS?

By Alvaro Verzi Rangel on January 13, 2020

Though the mainstream media is trying to impose the viewpoint that Luis Almagro is going to be reelected this coming March as Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), strong criticism against his actions casts doubts about his continuity in front of the Pan-American agency made up of Latin American and Caribbean countries plus the United States and Canada.

The 33 member states of the OAS are expected to appoint a new General Secretary on March 20 and three nominations were proposed before the deadline on December 15, the date established by the Organization’s Permanent Council. According to regulations, candidates can be nominated even the election day though this is not usual.

Candidates so far are incumbent secretary Luis Almagro; Peru’s current Ambassador to the U.S. Hugo de Zela; and Maria Fernanda Espinosa, recently president of the United Nations General Assembly.  Mrs. Espinosa was nominated by two Caribbean countries, Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Almagro was nominated by Colombia, and De Zela was nominated by Peru.

Almagro has been questioned during the last months given his almost systematic alignment with Washington’s interests, especially particular cases such as the United States constant meddling in Venezuela and the coup d’état that ousted Bolivia’s President pushing the country to a dictatorship that was never condemned by the OAS.

His warmongering vocabulary; his constant rhetoric against progressive governments in the region; his direct intervention when talking about fraud in Bolivia’s elections, leading to a coup against Bolivia’s constitutional government; and his lack of interest and decreased visibility to problems and ignoring claims openly raised by Caribbean countries during the last OAS Permanent Councils has created tension and polarization.

Almagro’s perspective of the Continent is suitable for the times of the Cold War. In November 2019, he was part of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, held by the “Victims of Communism,” an organization actively involved in events jointly organized with the USAID to demonize Cuba’s medical mission in the Continent.

Under his term as Secretary-General, denunciations against the legitimate Government of Venezuela have increased through events organized by the delegations of Canada, Colombia, and the U.S., as well as Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido.

Representatives of the Community of Caribbean States have already expressed their rejection of Almagro’s reelection and are in favor of Ecuador’s former Foreign Minister and ex-president of the U.N. Assembly General Maria Fernanda Espinosa.

Almagro’s controversial stances have raised concerns among many countries who have had enough. This has been evidenced by the fact that Peru, a mastermind of the Lima Group—a non-official group of OAS countries following Washington’s guidelines—, decided to nominate a very experienced candidate against him.

Espinosa has impressed many Heads of States and foreign ministers during her term at the U.N. Assembly General, given her capacity to reach consensus and inclusion: precisely what the OAS needs right now. From Almagro’s paranoid environment rumors are that the idea of Espinosa as the OAS head was coming from Cuba’s and Venezuela’s influence.

Mexico and Argentina have already made it clear that they would not accept the reelection of Almagro because he is not meeting the OAS rules about strengthening peace and security, fostering democracy, and ensuring the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

His interventions, said the Argentineans, have been rather divisive, taking sides for certain political sectors among member countries and fostering an agenda of conflicts, placing himself far from the natural role of mediator needed in a multilateral organization.

Argentina’s Foreign Ministry informed they are working to build an alternative nomination together with other countries such as Mexico, Peru, Panama, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In an event to relaunch the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Mexico, Argentina’s Foreign Minister Felipe Sola met with Maria Fernanda Espinosa and they agreed on the “need of strengthening Latin America’s multilateralism towards a real representation of all American countries,” reported the Argentinean Foreign Ministry. He also met with the other candidate, Peruvian Ambassador to the United States Hugo de Zela.

Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the U.S. and the OAS, Sir Ronald Sanders, noted that there was disorder in the organization and that it has worsened during the last four years. He added that a fact that fostered the disruption of its systematic operation was abandoning its capacity to reach consensus when making decisions, moving instead towards powerful governments imposing their will through coercion or influence peddling.

Another issue is Luis Almagro’s apparent authority to use the OAS as a platform for statements reflecting only his stances instead of the OAS member states as a collective body.

Sanders also claimed that if Almagro had taken the opportunity to appreciate the challenges faced by Caribbean countries as well as their priorities, he would have become a defender for the smallest countries which actually make up almost half of OAS members.

In February 2015, Sanders recalled, Almagro announced three development initiatives while seeking reelection. Two of them were creating a contingency fund for natural disasters particularly focused on Central America and the Caribbean; and an inter-connectivity fund for the Caribbean aimed at “overcoming structural weaknesses in matters of logistics and information and communications technology, as well as increasing employment prospects for the youth.”

The third proposal was an Inter-American initiative on climate change to “reach consensus about the hemisphere’s stance before Paris 2015 (United Nations Climate Change Conference). Besides an insignificant fund to provide a symbolic amount after natural disasters, nothing else happened.

“We are living in a world of uncertainties, in which power expresses itself through the most diverse and every day less conventional forms; in which we must move towards a positive agenda to help the OAS be up to the circumstances and prevent a new Cold War in our hemisphere. We must try everything possible to prevent these practices,” Sanders said.

An off the record recounting shows that Espinosa would be voted for by Mexico, Argentina, Panama, Nicaragua, Antigua and Barbuda; Barbados; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana; Haiti; Jamaica; Montserrat; Saint Lucia; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; and the Bahamas.

Almagro, meanwhile, would surely be voted for by the U.S.; Ecuador; Colombia; Canada; Brazil; Paraguay; Bolivia; Chile; Belize; Honduras; Guaido’s representative; Guatemala; El Salvador; and perhaps Uruguay (which did not endorse his nomination). De Zela would be probably voted by his own country, Peru.

What surprises and coercions are the United States preparing for this election? This is the big question among all OAS ambassadors.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano, translation North America bureau