Press Memorandum: Who Will Be the Next Leader of the Organization of American States?

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Council On Hemispheric Affairs

Monitoring Political, Economic and Diplomatic Issues Affecting the Western Hemisphere

Memorandum to the Press 04.79


Word Count: 2400

Friday, 29 October 2004


Who will be the next leader of the Organization of American States?

• A battle has broken out in the race for the next Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) after the recently elected Miguel Angel Rodríguez resigned from his post on October 15. He stepped down as Secretary General after a scandal broke loose four weeks ago involving a bribe he accepted while he was President of Costa Rica.
• Whether a former head of state can lead the OAS is a contentious issue, as some deem the traits demonstrated by Latin American presidents to be undesirable for the OAS Secretariat. The OAS needs a man of stature who possesses integrity, leadership and a keen understanding of the inner workings of a large organization. That man is unquestionably the president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Enrique Iglesias.
• The
U.S. Department of State should have investigated Rodriguez’s presidency before endorsing him for the OAS post.
• This scandal has made the international community skeptical of the OAS’ ability to promote democracy, integration and development in the
Western Hemisphere.

The resignation of former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodríguez (President from 1998-2002) as Secretary General of the OAS has pitched the regional organization into perhaps the greatest crisis of its history. Less than three weeks after Rodríguez assumed his new post as OAS chief, Costa Rican newspaper La Nación reported his involvement in a mysterious transaction with his long-time protégé, José Antonio Lobo Solera, and the French communications company Alcatel. Rodriguez is accused of receiving part of a $2.2 million “prize” that Lobo obtained from Alcatel when the latter served as head of the Instituto Costarricence de Electricidad (ICE). The accusations allege that the bribe was paid to expedite the granting of a major cellular phone contract for Costa Rica. The disgraced Rodriguez formally stepped down from his OAS post on October 15.

With Rodríguez currently under house arrest in
San José, a new battle has started over who will succeed him. Rumors are currently flying around the region concerning who the likely contenders for the top post might be. Unfortunately, as has been the case in the past (particularly in the election of César Gaviria as Secretary General in 1994), the U.S. will play a disproportionately large role in choosing the next leader of the OAS. The problem is that what is good for Washington’s self interests is rarely good for Latin America.


This analysis was prepared by Alex Sánchez, COHA Research Fellow.

October 29, 2004

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