March 09, 2023
Washington, DC — Today’s report by the Associated Press of further evidence of ethics violations by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro is just the “tip of a big and deadly iceberg,” said Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
“Unfortunately this is not the only, or even the most serious, violation of OAS rules that Almagro has presided over. His role, and that of OAS electoral observers, in the 2019 military coup in Bolivia has been well-documented,” Weisbrot said.
“Ironically, the OAS has a mandate to protect democracy in the hemisphere, but it is increasingly seen by member states as an example of what happens when the rule of law collapses.”
For more than three years now, members of the US Congress have been demanding answers from the OAS, including Almagro himself, about their role in the 2019 coup. But the OAS has refused to answer.
One of the simplest questions that the OAS has refused to answer is also the most damning. Following the 2019 elections, which the OAS officially observed, both the organization and Almagro himself issued five reports and statements – including a preliminary audit, which accused the government of stealing the election by fraud.
The accusation was based on the fact that the incumbent President Evo Morales’ lead in the vote count had increased during the final 16 percent of votes counted. It is common for such changes to take place as the votes from demographically or politically different parts of the electorate are counted. This is well understood by statisticians, as well as most people who have watched election returns on television.
Yet in the five reports and statements by Almagro and the OAS following the elections, this possibility was never mentioned. Members of Congress repeatedly asked whether the OAS observers had thought of this possibility. They are still waiting, after repeated questioning for more than three years, for an answer.
“Almagro and his electoral observers cannot answer this question because there is no truthful answer that would not implicate the OAS, and Almagro, in a Trump-like “Stop the Steal” operation,” said Weisbrot. “As in the case of Trump and his insurrectionists, it is now well-known that there was no evidence that the 2019 election was stolen. But the OAS enabled the Bolivian insurrectionists to succeed in overturning the results.”
As the New York Times reported, the OAS’s “flawed” analysis immediately following the election fueled “a chain of events that changed the South American nation’s history.”
The Trump-backed coup that the OAS helped bring about was led by white supremacists, and installed a government that committed massacres of indigenous people, as documented by Harvard Law School’s (HLS) International Human Rights Clinic and the University Network for Human Rights (UNHR). It also overthrew the democratically elected first indigenous president of Bolivia, which has the largest percentage of indigenous people in the Americas.