MIAMI (HPD) — The secretary general of the Organization of American States is facing an internal investigation into allegations that he had a consensual relationship with an assistant, in a possible violation of the OAS code of ethics, The Associated Press has learned.
News about the relationship between Luis Almagro and a Mexican woman some 20 years his junior broke as delegates from 34 countries arrived in Peru’s capital this week for the OAS annual meeting.
Within the Washington-based peace and democracy organization, however, this multi-year relationship has been an open secret and a source of discomfort for some of the 600 employees, intimidated by having to work with the alleged mistress of the boss, according to several current and retired employees and regional diplomats.
Three of them said they were seen kissing by a pool during the OAS General Assembly in Medellin in 2019. Another said he saw them holding hands in his office in mid-2020. According to a former US official, the head of the OAS told him that this relationship was what caused his separation from his second wife at the time of his re-election in 2020.
The OAS code of ethics says that a staff member must not maintain an intimate relationship with a colleague in a way that “interferes with the performance of their duties or disadvantages others in the workplace.” It adds that a boss should not exercise supervisory functions over the other person or benefit them in any way.
Almagro, 59, rejected the HPD’s repeated requests for comment.
But at the end of the OAS General Assembly in Lima, he said in a press conference that he was “calm” because he had always taken the appropriate measures to ensure that “no situation contravened the rules of the organization” and added that he had never he was supervisor of “no person with whom I had a relationship, I never promoted her and I never increased her salary in any way”.
The Uruguayan added that he will wait for the summons from the inspector general for interrogations or to contribute at any stage of the investigation. “Unfortunately, I am going to be the least informed person in this process because I am not going to participate in any phase of it,” he said.
An OAS spokesman had previously denied that Almagro had ever been the supervisor of the Mexican assistant, who according to him has been working since 2019 at the Secretariat for the Strengthening of Democracy.
“Almagro never participated in the decisions regarding the interests of this employee within the OAS,” said spokesman Gonzalo Espariz in an email.
But in several semblances online and in photos with Almagro -even in March of this year and some published in the OAS accounts on social networks- it is said that the woman is “advisor” or sometimes “chief advisor” to the secretary general .
After the HPD contacted the woman on her OAS email, her LinkedIn profile was changed to reflect that she is no longer an adviser to the organization. The OAS press office said she has been on unpaid leave since June, without explaining why.
The woman, who is not identified at the request of the OAS and because the investigation is still ongoing, also refused to comment but was quoted extensively about the “very deep and very intense” relationship with her boss in a biography of Almagro. , published at the end of 2020 in his native Uruguay, “Luis Almagro does not ask for forgiveness”.
“I always tell her: ‘I’m smarter because it took me no more than thirty-eight years to get to know you, it took you about fifty-something,’” she told the book’s authors, Gonzalo Ferreira and Martín Natalevich.
In the biography, the head of the OAS refused to talk about the relationship and limited himself to quoting the great Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío: “With gray hair I approach the rose bushes in the garden.”
Almagro also said that “the female sex” has been “a very important engine” in his professional ambitions.
Less than two weeks ago, another US-dominated regional organization, the Inter-American Development Bank, removed its president Mauricio Claver-Carone, a former White House official, in the face of similar allegations of favoring a subordinate with whom he allegedly had a relationship. intimate relationship.
Unlike the IDB, which hired a law firm to investigate Claver-Carone’s relationship with her chief of staff, the OAS is apparently handling the matter internally.
The OAS Inspector General told the HPD that he decided to investigate the matter after receiving an anonymous complaint, vague in detail, about an intimate relationship between Almagro and an employee who was not identified. Almagro had first received that complaint on June 3, and he himself later turned it over to the inspector general. The most recent report from the inspectorate, dated July 31, refers to the matter as “Alleged inappropriate conduct of a high-ranking OAS official.”
Almagro was elected head of the OAS almost unanimously in 2015, after having been foreign minister in the leftist Uruguayan government. Throughout his term, his leadership style has been questioned.
From the beginning, Almagro joined the United States in opposing the socialist governments of Cuba and Venezuela. He once paraphrased President Donald Trump’s statement that he would not rule out the use of military force to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, a position rejected even by right-wing US allies.
Almagro also played a crucial role in the resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales in 2019 after an election plagued by irregularities, altered according to the OAS mission by fraud, conclusions that were later questioned by academics in the United States.
During the OAS General Assembly in Lima this week, Almagro promoted the creation of “safe spaces” for women and girls in the Americas, in a tweet with a photo of around twenty women surrounding him.
“We must remain steadfast in our commitment to dismantle remnants of patriarchy that only seek to stifle talent, knowledge and experience from women,” the tweet said.
Associated Press reporter Franklin Briceño in Lima contributed to this report.