WASHINGTON, D.C. — Pressure is building to hold the Organization of American States (OAS) and its Secretary General, Luis Almagro, accountable for actions in support of the 2019 coup in Bolivia, says Co-Director of the DC-based Centre for Economic Policy and Research (CEPR), Mark Weisbrot. His comments follow a strong statement on Almagro by Argentinian president Alberto Fernández and a resolution on the OAS passed by the Andean Parliament.
“It is long past time for a thorough and independent inquiry into the OAS’s role in last year’s coup in Bolivia,” Weisbrot stated. “The change in administration in the US presents an opportunity for accountability where it is badly needed.”
“That Almagro remains in the OAS is painful because they were accomplices of the coup in Bolivia,” Argentina president Alberto Fernandez stated earlier this week.
Also this week, the Andean Parliament passed a resolution urging an investigation into the OAS actions. The body requested that each member country’s foreign ministry work to support such an endeavor.
These developments follow a statement from the Grupo de Puebla in October, calling on Almagro to resign, signed by more than two-dozen former presidents, foreign ministers, and political leaders throughout the region.
The calls for an investigation into the OAS follow more than a year of similar calls from members of the US congress. In November 2019, Representative Jan Schakowsky and three other members sent a list of 11 questions to the OAS, seeking clarity over their role in the 2019 elections.
The OAS has failed to respond to these questions, including in July of this year, when OAS electoral officials met with congressional staff. In September, Schakowsky and Representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia called for a congressional inquiry into the OAS and Almagro. The US provides a majority of the organization’s budget.
One day after Bolivia’s 2019 elections, the OAS electoral observation mission denounced an “inexplicable” change in the trend of the vote count. The allegation, which proved to be false, “fueled a chain of events that changed the South American nation’s history,” the New York Times later reported. The OAS later produced a deeply flawed audit of the electoral process, which was used to justify the November 2019 ouster of Evo Morales.
As Secretary General of the OAS, Almagro worked to legitimize the resulting de facto government despite widespread political persecution and violations of human rights. In March 2020, Almagro was reelected for another five-year term atop the hemispheric body. The Trump administration offered significant diplomatic support for his reelection.
The statement by Fernández and the Andean Parliament resolution come on the heels of a Mexican senior diplomat’s speech at the Organization of American States’ annual General Assembly, in which he strongly criticized Almagro’s record as Secretary General and called on him to “submit to a process of self-criticism based on his actions against the OAS Charter and the harm that he has done to Bolivia’s democracy, to determine if he still has the necessary moral authority to lead this organization.”
In February of this year the Mexican government formally requested that the OAS Secretary General’s Office commission an independent analysis of the findings of the OAS electoral observation mission in Bolivia, but received no response.
“Throughout the Trump presidency, Almagro cozied up to the extreme right in the hemisphere, including here in Washington ” Weisbrot noted. “The question for the incoming Biden administration is if they are going to accept the severe damage to democracy and human rights that was done by Trump and his allies, or if they will support regional and congressional demands for an investigation.”