OAS launches external ethics probe into romance chief

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MIAMI (AP) — The Organization of American States has launched an external investigation into allegations that Secretary General Luis Almagro violated the organization’s code of ethics while having an intimate relationship with a staff member.

Following Friday’s unanimous vote, the OAS will seek to hire a company to determine whether Almagro has violated the OAS Code of Ethics or any other personnel rules prohibiting supervisors from favoring colleagues with whom they have a relationship. in love.

Almagro, speaking after Friday’s meeting, said he supported a full and transparent investigation into his relationship with a woman he said had been his “partner” for nearly three years and the accompanied to numerous dinners and other diplomatic events until their breakup. a few months earlier.

The approved resolution authorizing the investigation cites an Associated Press report that found Almagro’s relationship with a Mexican-born staffer two decades his junior was an open secret that had put many members of the Washington-based organization uneasy.

Almagro denies ever favoring the woman with pay raises, promotions or any other job-related decisions.

However, a regional diplomat closely following the situation said member states had a number of doubts as to how the woman had risen through the ranks and why she had been furloughed this year when questions began to arise. Asked about office romance. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the organization’s internal deliberations.

OAS employment records show that the woman, who is not being named at the request of the OAS, had her salary level increased sometime before June 30, 2019 and her short-term contract extended in a long-term contract while she was dating the organization. high official. Along the way, she began to be portrayed in online biographies, some published on the OAS website, as the “senior adviser” to the Secretary General.

The investigation into Almagro comes after another US-dominated regional organization, the Inter-American Development Bank, sacked its chairman, former White House official Mauricio Claver-Carone, this year over similar allegations. to favor a subordinate with whom he had an intimate relationship. .

Almagro seemed unconcerned about defending his behavior during Friday’s session, at one point joking with Suriname’s president, who was seated next to him, that “maybe you should conduct an external investigation” after the diplomat chose the name of his own country from a box. to begin the roll-call vote.

The United States was among 30 countries that voted in favor of Friday’s resolution. Two countries abstained.

Almagro was elected to lead the OAS with near unanimous support in 2015 after serving as foreign minister in Uruguay’s leftist government. And throughout his tenure, he faced questions about his leadership style.

From the start, Almagro made common cause with the United States in opposing the socialist governments of Cuba and Venezuela, even once emulating President Donald Trump’s line that he would not rule out the use of force. military to impeach Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro – a position chastised even by American conservatives. allies.

Follow Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman

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