Almagro's remarks at the opening of the 49th OAS General Assembly, in Medellín, Colombia, in June 2019 [OAS]

▲ Almagro's remarks at the opening of the 49th OAS General Assembly, in Medellín, Colombia, in June 2019 [OAS]

COMMENTARY / Ignacio Yárnoz

At the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) held in Medellín last June, the tensions and division that currently exist within this international organization were confirmed. In the first place, these discrepancies were evident in the question of the Venezuelan question, an issue that was the protagonist of the meeting with the presentation of migration reports, criticism of the Bolivarian regime and the presence of the Venezuelan delegation representing the Government of Guaidó led by Ambassador Gustavo Tarre.

These events were met with the rejection of a large part of the Caribbean countries, who abandoned the conference room In the presentation and declared their refusal to comply with any OAS resolution that the Venezuelan delegation voted in favor of. In the opinion of Caribbean countries, Venezuela formally left the organization in March and the presence of Guaidó's delegation as the legitimate representative of Venezuela contravenes international law and the principles of the OAS Charter, since it represents a government without effective control of the territory or legal legitimacy. But the Caricom countries were not the only ones to express their protest, the delegation of Uruguay also left the meeting. conference room and that of Mexico expressed its displeasure with the Venezuelan opposition presence as a delegation of plenary session of the Executive Council right.

The controversy, however, not only revealed the discrepancies on how to deal with the Venezuelan crisis, but also reflected another underlying reality, and that is that the candidacy of Luis Almagro to be re-elected as president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. University Secretary of the organization hangs in the balance.

In December of last year, Uruguay's Almagro formally announced that, at the request of Colombia and the United States, he had decided to run for re-election with the certainty of having the necessary votes. Since then, however, the landscape of re-election has darkened. Voting will take place on the first semester Almagro needs at least 18 votes from the 35 countries of the OAS (if we include Cuba, even if he does not actively participate).


The future of Almagro, who arrived at the position In May 2015, it depends on several factors that will be developed this year. Mainly, the general elections in Argentina, Canada, Uruguay and Bolivia, which will be held between October and November. However, there are other variables that can also affect your re-election, such as the support you get from the countries of the United States. group or the possible division among CARICOM members on the matter. Below, we will review these assumptions one by one.

In the case of the Bolivian elections, Almagro has already played his cards and has been accused of having used a double standard by harshly criticizing the Maduro regime, but then not being critical of the possibility of Evo Morales being re-elected for a third time. Such re-election is supposedly not legal according to the Bolivian Constitution and was vetoed by the population in a referendum, but President Evo Morales has ignored it under the pretext that it prevents him from being elected. candidate once again, it goes against human rights, an argument later endorsed by the Supreme Court of Bolivia. The administrative office General of the OAS, despite not being in the agreement with the "right to be re-elected", he did not raise any criticism or position himself against said election supposedly because of Bolivia's possible vote in favor of Almagro, something that could happen if Evo Morales is finally re-elected but that is not completely certain either. Otherwise, however, he has already earned the animosity of the candidates of the civil service examination such as Carlos Mesa or Óscar Ortiz and the opposition leader Samuel Doria Medina who, if elected, would not vote in favor of him.

Regarding Guatemala, the first round of the presidential elections gave victory to Sandra Torres (22.08% of the votes) and Alejandro Giammattei (12.06% of the votes), who will face each other in the second round on Sunday, August 11. In the event that Torres is elected, she may align her position with that of Mexico, adopting a less interventionist policy towards Venezuela and therefore against Almagro. In the event of the victory of Giammattei, a center-right politician, it is likely that he will align his positions with Almagro and vote in favor of him. Guatemala has always been aligned with U.S. positions, so it is doubtful that the country will vote against a U.S.-backed candidacy, though not impossible.

As for Argentina and Canada, the position will depend on whether the candidate The winner in their respective elections is either conservative or progressive. Even in the case of Canada, the possibility of a rejection of Almagro is open regardless of the political orientation of the new government, since while Canada has been critical of the Maduro regime, it has also criticized the internal organization of the OAS under the command of the current one University Secretary. As far as Argentina is concerned, there is a clear difference between the presidential candidates: while Mauricio Macri would represent continuity in support for Almagro, the Alberto Fernández-Cristina Kirchner ticket would clearly be a rejection.

Uruguay represents a curious case of how internal politics and political games affect even members of the same party. We must not forget that Luis Almagro was a minister in the government of Pepe Mujica and that his first candidacy for University Secretary was submitted by Uruguay. However, given the division in the training The policy to which he belonged, Frente Amplio, won some enemies such as those of the current government of Tabaré Vázquez. That is why Uruguay has been so critical of Luis Almagro despite being a compatriot and party colleague. However, we should not doubt that he will also have his friends in the party who will change Uruguay's stance. If so, it wouldn't matter what the candidate (Luis Lacalle Pou for the National Party or Daniel Martinez for the Broad Front) that Almagro would be assured of the vote: that of the right wing of the National Party by having some thesis more critical of Maduro (in fact, they recognized Guaidó's government as a party and criticized Uruguay's neutrality), or that of the left of the Frente Amplio because of the contacts that Almagro may have, although the latter is still a hypothesis given that the most extreme wing of the party is the one that still has the majority of votes within the Frente Amplio.

Another Challenger

However, Almagro's chances for re-election could be thwarted if another candidate who could win the sympathy of the government presents his candidacy. group of Lima, created in August 2017 and made up of a dozen countries in the Americas to coordinate their strategy in relation to Venezuela. Peru sounds like the one that is likely to present a candidate: Hugo de Zela, a 42-year-old Peruvian diplomat degree program who in April was appointed Peru's ambassador to Washington and who has played a very important role within the group of Lima as coordinator. In addition, De Zela knows the structure of the OAS since he has served as chief of staff of the administrative office General on two occasions: first, between 1989 and 1994, when the head of the agency was the Brazilian Joao Clemente Baena Soares; and then between 2011 and 2015, with the Chilean José Miguel Insulza. This candidate, apart from his extensive political experience, has as his trump card the fact that he has been a coordinator of the group of Lima, which could provide assurances about the partnership between that group and the OAS on the Venezuelan question.

If De Zela were to decide to run, the group Lima could split its votes, which could favor the interests of the 14 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, which usually vote as a bloc and have been unhappy with the management on the Venezuelan crisis. In fact, Caricom is already thinking about introducing a candidate that takes into account the interests of those countries, mainly climate change. The names that sound among the members of Caricom are the ambassador to the OAS of Antigua and Barbuda, Ronald Sanders, or the representative of Barbados to the UN, Liz Thompson.

However, there remains hope in the Caricom community for Almagro. Saint Lucia, Haiti, Jamaica and the Bahamas broke ranks at the time of voting on the admission of Ambassador Gustavo Tarre appointed by the Guaidó government to represent Venezuela at the OAS (although technically what they supported is that he be designated as "designated permanent representative of the National Assembly, pending new elections and the appointment of a democratically elected government"). These four countries, although with a more moderate position than that of the group of Lima, joined his position by accepting the appointment of such a representative with the aforementioned qualification. This is the third time so far this year that they have broken ranks in Caricom in the topic Venezuelan. This could give the University Secretary A trump card with which to be able to play in order to achieve the support of one of these four countries, although it will require skillful negotiation techniques and to give something in return to these countries, whether they are put in the position of the administrative office benefits in new programs and scholarships from development or climate change, for example.  

In conclusion, in the best possible scenario for Almagro and assuming that no country in the group of Lima will present a candidate alternatively, the candidacy for re-election of the current University Secretary it would have 12 votes secured, 4 negotiable from Saint Lucia, Jamaica, Haiti and the Bahamas and 5 pending elections (Guatemala, Canada, Uruguay, Argentina and Bolivia). It is clear that Mexico, a large part of Caricom (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago) and Nicaragua will vote against. In addition, we must add the fact that any candidacy can be submitted up to 10 minutes before the extraordinary General Assembly, which gives rise even more to shadow political games and last-minute surprises. As we can see, it's a status very difficult for him University Secretary And it's surely going to be more than one headache in this arithmetic of votes to get the position. Without a doubt, a fight for the position that will give a lot to talk about between now and February 2020.

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