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Latin America’s Critical Election

The Organization of American States has come to play a pivotal role in Latin America, including by monitoring elections, defending human rights, and isolating authoritarian regimes. As a result, the OAS’s upcoming election of a secretary general is one of the most important in its 72-year history.

MEXICO CITY – On March 20, the Organization of American States will convene a special General Assembly to elect a secretary general. Although three candidates are competing, only two are actually in the running: the Uruguayan incumbent, Luis Almagro, and María Fernanda Espinosa, a former president of the United Nations General Assembly from Ecuador. It is one of the most important elections in the OAS’s 72-year history.

Over this period, the OAS has come to play a pivotal role in Latin America, including by monitoring elections, defending human rights, and isolating authoritarian regimes. For example, the body’s electoral observers questioned the integrity of last year’s Bolivian presidential election from the very beginning, and the international audit group they headed eventually determined that the process had been subject to significant tampering. It was largely this finding that led to President Evo Morales’s departure from power. The OAS handled this complicated situation well, and will oversee a fresh presidential vote in May.

In addition, through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the OAS investigates abuses, issues temporary injunctions, and condemns member states for violations. In fact, the organization’s persistent criticism is one reason why Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s dictatorship finds itself increasingly alone. The OAS has played a similar role in denouncing human-rights violations in Nicaragua, and in the case of the disappearance of 43 students in Iguala, Mexico, in 2014.

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