Luis Almagro is the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose tenure is best defined by the quasi-evangelical zeal with which he has condemned and sought to delegitimise the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro.
On 15 December, Uruguay’s Frente Amplio (Broad Front) government announced it had finally had enough after Almagro had advocated Maduro’s removal by any means necessary, including force. Almagro was previously Uruguay’s Foreign Minister from 2010 until 2015 under the Frente Amplio government of José Mujica.
For the Frente Amplio, a long-standing ally of Venezuela, the final straw was a press conference on 15 September. ‘With regards to military intervention to overthrow Nicolás Maduro, I believe that we must not rule out any option’, Almagro said then. He doubled down in an interview published five days later, offering the Rwandan genocide, in which around 800,000 people were killed, as a comparable example of what inaction can produce.
Almagro’s implication that bombing Venezuela was a potentially justifiable course of action echoed growing belligerence within the US political right, which for two decades has failed to depose chavismo through various other means and now sees few alternatives to the tried and tested method of military aggression.
‘We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary’, said Donald Trump in August 2017.
Republican senator Marco Rubio has also called for a coup d’état or US military intervention to remove Maduro. Most recently, on 1 November US national security adviser John Bolton labelled Venezuela part of a ‘troika of tyranny’ alongside Cuba and Nicaragua, purposefully evoking the war-hungry ‘Axis of Evil’ discourse employed by George W Bush’s administration.
This continues a pattern of hostile rhetoric towards the region’s leftwing governments, despite recent state-backed human rights violations in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Honduras and elsewhere. The difference in these cases is that they are neoliberal governments closely aligned to the Washington axis (or, in Mexico’s case, it was until a few weeks ago).
Almagro’s rhetoric since his OAS appointment in May 2015 has largely resembled a proxy voice for US foreign policy in Latin America, maintaining the organisation’s decades-long reputation as a vehicle for expanding Washington’s regional interests. His recommendation for a vote recount following apparently-rigged elections in Honduras in 2017, which saw the rightwing government returned to power despite strong suspicion of voter fraud, was one of the few occasions he diverted from the script.