Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, is increasingly being questioned. Some, such as the Government of Mexico and the Puebla Group, are proposing that he resign over what is considered to have been an active role in the coup d’état in Bolivia. But is it possible to achieve this with a change in the organization’s Secretariat?
The Government of Mexico requested an assessment of whether Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), “still has the necessary moral authority to continue leading the organization”. The proposal was presented by Maximiliano Reyes, Undersecretary for Latin America, during the OAS General Assembly held on October 20 and 21.
The Assembly took place in the context of the elections that were held in Bolivia October 18, where Luis Arce and David Choquehuanca, of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), were elected , on a day that Reyes described as peaceful and democratic “in spite of you, Secretary General, and your electoral observation mission”.
The position officially communicated by Mexico reflected the gravity of the situation which has been denounced since the coup d’état against the then Bolivian President Evo Morales in 2019: the active participation of the OAS, in particular Almagro, in the coup plot.
The denunciations against Almagro and the electoral mission of the OAS in Bolivia in 2019 had previously been made by different media and research centers. However, they became more relevant in view of the current electoral results: MAS reached a victory close to 55%, with more than 20 points of difference over the second place, Carlos Mesa.
One of the arguments presented by the OAS report denouncing irregularities in 2019 had been the result in 86 voting tables, where MAS had obtained very high results. “If we make a comparison of those same voting tables with last Sunday’s results, the MAS in those tables won with the same amount, and even more votes,” explained Venezuelan lawyer and international analyst Laila Tajeldine. In other words, the 2020 results confirm that the 2019 results were correct and that there was no fraud.
In @CELAGeopolitica we reviewed the 86 precincts that the OAS objected to in the 2019 election 🇧🇴
In 2020, it is confirmed that the MAS-IPSP will once again obtain a broad victory, the same tendency of the national vote.
The OAS should be held accountable for the politicization of its electoral missions. pic.twitter.com/vTS3NZrO0h
– Gisela Brito 💚 (@giselasbrito) October 21, 2020
New evidence of OAS action on the coup in Bolivia placed Almagro back in the dock. “My country denounces the Secretary General’s eagerness to intervene in the internal affairs of our States and to harm our democracies, what happened with the OAS in Bolivia must never be repeated again,” said Reyes.
The OAS with Luis Almagro
The accusations presented by the Mexican government specifically target Almagro for “using its administrative powers to make political decisions that impact the direction of the organization without first submitting them to the consideration of the membership”.
In addition, such decisions “lack a legal basis and the necessary information to determine their motivation and objective,” Reyes said at the general assembly. It is then a problem of the organization, but particularly of its secretary general.
There were more voices that targeted Almagro. The Puebla Group, called for his resignation: “The role he played in the destabilization of Bolivia and the exclusionary relations he maintains with other countries in the area disqualify him from continuing to play the role of mediator and democratic facilitator. The document was signed by political personalities such as former Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff and former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.
For its part, the Latin American Strategic Center for Geopolitics (CELAG) requested the removal of Almagro in a letter sent to the foreign ministers of the OAS member states, because of “his role in the events of October 2019, which were based on a report without technical rigor that was harmful to the democratic institutionality in Bolivia”.
Tajeldine pointed out that “Almagro has surpassed his powers and has reached a shameless position, he has been one of the secretary generals most positioned in favor of U.S. policy in the region. However, he emphasized one element: the structural problem of the OAS “since its inception”.
In his opinion, a removal of Almagro, which would be necessary taking into account what has happened, would not solve the problem. “The OAS has been structurally formed as an organism for the legitimation of the policies of intervention by the United States in the whole region,” observed Tajeldine.
The OAS and the case of Venezuela
The participation of the OAS and centrally of Almagro in the coup in Bolivia brought to the table what had been happening in Venezuela for several years, where the current Secretary General has acted as one of the most aggressive figures in international politics against the government of Nicolás Maduro.
In October 2018, from the Colombian city of Cúcuta, bordering Venezuela, he affirmed that “regarding the military intervention to overthrow Nicolás Maduro, we must not discard any option”.
The role of the OAS, and in particular Almagro, has been central to the legitimacy of the “interim government” headed by Juan Guaidó. Thus, in April 2019, three months after his self-proclamation as president of Venezuela, the OAS accredited as the Venezuelan representative Guaidó’s envoy to the organization, Gustavo Tarre Briceño, a politician who has spoken out in favor of international intervention in the country.
The diplomatic siege against Maduro’s government is the main issue of Almagro at the head of the OAS for a central reason: Venezuela is the main objective of U.S. foreign policy in the continent. The OAS, and centrally its Secretary General, who carries out actions with the irregularities pointed out by Mexico, is one of Washington’s instruments to carry out that policy in Latin America.
This last General Assembly of the organization was no exception, and one of the central issues was Venezuela: the upcoming legislative elections on December 6.
The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was in charge of pre-announcing the position that the General Assembly would take on the issue: “The United States hopes that this organism will approve a strong resolution condemning the Maduro regime this year, just as we hope that all member states will not recognize Venezuela’s illegitimate elections, past or future”.
Indeed, the General Assembly adopted a resolution to note the “lack of minimum democratic conditions to guarantee free, fair and transparent elections in Venezuela”. The resolution had four votes against, nine abstentions, from the progressive governments of Mexico and Argentina inclusive, and 21 votes in favor, of which the Venezuelan one, from the Guaidó envoy, was falsely included.
The Venezuelan government not only did not participate in the meeting but, since April 2019, it was formally excluded from the OAS, after having activated the mechanism to withdraw two years earlier. Tajeldine evaluates this withdrawal as correct: “The conclusion we are making is that it was a historic and necessary decision, which responded to a reality that continues to exist”.
Venezuela is not part of the organization that is currently being questioned because of its role in Bolivia, which is memorable in the Venezuelan case: “we already know what the OAS is going to say and do regarding Venezuela because it is a script that is repeated over and over again”, the analyst points out.
Organizations and regional integration
The OAS, formed in 1948, regained a centrality it had lost in previous years due to the weakening of recently constructed regional integration instruments, such as the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), created in 2008, or the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), in 2010.
It was a policy designed by the United States and applied by each right-wing government that took office in the region in recent years: one by one they withdrew from Unasur, emptying out Celac, centralizing the OAS, and integrating the Lima Group, formed in 2017 with the aim of diplomatically besieging the Venezuelan government. They also created an alliance of right-wing governments such as the Forum for the Progress of South America (Prosur), in 2019.
Thus, an instrument such as Unasur, which played a central role in the attempted coup in Bolivia in 2008, ceased to have diplomatic relevance. That void, product of a correlation of forces favorable to governments with regional foreign policy subordinated to Washington’s agenda, was occupied by the OAS.
“Existing instruments, such as Celac and Unasur, can be the backbone for a true integration of the region,” Tajeldine assesses.
“It is necessary the formation of organizations that are really subordinated to international regulations and to those norms that are aimed at the non-intervention of the internal affairs of the States. And when we refer to that, we do not refer only to military non-intervention, but to all types of intervention, political, economic, as the OAS has been doing,” the attorney argues.
Therefore, while on the one hand the request for Almagro’s resignation grows due to his participation in the coup in Bolivia that resulted in two massacres, persecutions, and greater poverty, at the same time, there is a greater need to strengthen the mechanisms created in previous years in order to develop Latin American instruments of integration that contain the diversity of governments and have clear points of action.
The latter could begin to be strengthened with the victory of the new government in Bolivia, which has expanded the map of governments willing to move in this direction, and has already announced that it will be part of the re-launching of Unasur, the support to Celac, and that it will withdraw from the Lima Group. A possible victory of Andrés Arauz in February in Ecuador would be another step for this continental project.
Translation by Internationalist 360°