Friday, February 3, 2023

US supports requests for external investigation of head of OAS

MIAMI ( Associated Press) — The secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) is facing infighting from one of his subordinates, including President Joe Biden’s administration, calling for an outside investigation into possible misconduct in his relationship.

The Washington-based OAS’s own inspector general said in a memo this week that the organization’s best course of action was to hire an outside firm to investigate allegations that Secretary-General Luis Almagro may have violated the code of conduct.

The inspector general’s recommendation was based on an Associated Press report that found Almagro was in a relationship with a Mexican employee who was described as a “senior advisor” to the secretary general, including on the organization’s website.

The inspector general said the Associated Press report followed a vaguely detailed, anonymous complaint sent to his office on June 3 by Almagro himself.

The organization’s code of conduct for the consolidation of peace and democracy in the US prohibits its managers from overseeing or participating in decisions that benefit those with whom they have a romantic relationship.

A proposal to hire an outside firm to investigate Almagro’s behavior will be discussed during the next meeting of the 34-member OAS Permanent Council on Wednesday.

The United States, which contributed nearly half of the organization’s $100 million in funding this year, has already expressed support for an external inquiry ahead of the meeting.

“We take these allegations seriously,” a State Department spokeswoman said in an email to the Associated Press. It added that any breach of the OAS ethics standards “should be investigated fairly and impartially by an appropriate external investigative unit.”

However, at least four of the organization’s members – Almagro natives of Uruguay, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize and Saint Lucia – have publicly supported draft resolutions that raise questions about the cost of an external inquiry, at a time when When the hemisphere body of 600 employees is pressure to cut expenses

His reference is a recent investigation into allegations of similar misconduct against Mauricio Clever-Carone, president of the Inter-American Development Bank, who was accused of having a longtime affair with his chief of staff. A month-long investigation by the American law firm Davis Polk determined that Clever-Carone violated ethics rules by favoring an aide, paving the way for the removal of the president.

Almagro’s repeated requests for comment on the possibility of an external investigation sent to the secretary-general’s press office went unanswered.

But unlike Clever-Carone, who has denied ever having an affair with her assistant, Almagro has said only that she never supervised the employee and was not involved in any employment-related decisions, such as Authorizing increments. First, he promised to cooperate fully with any investigation by the organization’s supreme supervisory authority.

Almagro also faces criticism on other administrative issues.

This week, Mexico criticized Almagro for allegedly betraying the wishes of OAS members by renewing the contract of OAS ombudsman Nida Perez, just days before the organization’s annual meeting approved a long-debated plan. Leadership position.

In September, Almagro unilaterally extended Pérez’s contract for four years, and Mexico complained that it was an attempt to circumvent those new procedures.

During a meeting on administrative matters on 1 November, the Mexican delegation said in a written statement that “unfortunately,” this is not an isolated act, but part of a pattern of conduct that ignores the will of states and the OAS. violates the institutions.

Perez, whose contract expired on October 21, two weeks after adopting the new procedures, was recently reprimanded by the OAS’ top review panel for neglecting his duty to serve as an impartial arbiter of labor disputes. Went.

The reprimand was in response to Pérez’s role in facilitating the removal of the head of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights from Almagro, an independently run body, in 2020. The commission’s executive secretary dealt with workplace complaints herself, but she had the unanimous support of the seven commissioners of oversight.

Almagro, 59, was elected president of the OAS in 2015 with near-unanimous support after serving as foreign minister in Uruguay’s leftist government, but once installed in Washington, he has opposed leftist leaders in Cuba. shared with the United States. and Venezuela. He even once asked President Donald J. Trump reiterated that he would not rule out the use of military force to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Almagro was re-elected in 2020 with the support of 23 of the 34 member states. More recently, as the left has regained power in Latin America, calls for his removal have increased.

Last month, members of the Puebla Group, an organization of former presidents and political leaders from 16 countries, issued a statement calling for Almagro’s removal, criticizing the “immoral” dismissal of the rights watchdog’s secretary and his interference after the elections. In Bolivia, that led to the resignation of President Evo Morales and was replaced by a US-backed conservative government.

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Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

Goodman is on Twitter as: @APJoshGoodman

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