Almagro served as Minister of Foreign Affairs between 2010 and 2015, during the Presidency of José "Pepe" Mujica.
Almagro was elected to the OAS on "More Rights for More People", viewing his tenure as an opportunity to reduce inequality throughout the Western Hemisphere. "As OAS Secretary General, I am both government and opposition. I must be the voice of those without a voice; the more discriminated against. I must be the voice of those who suffer inequality; who suffer from the lack of protection of their rights; and I must be the staunchest defender of those rights."
Luis Almagro was born June 1, 1963, in Cerro Chato/Paysandu, Uruguay. Almagro studied at the University of the Republic in Montevideo, where he earned his law degree. During his 20 year career with the Uruguayan foreign ministry, Almagro represented Uruguay in the Islamic Republic of Iran (1991 – 1996), at UNESCO (1998), in Germany (1998-2003), as well as serving as Ambassador to China (2007-2010). He is fluent in Spanish, English, and French.
In the 2014 general election, Almagro was elected to the Senate of Uruguay. He later resigned to take the position of OAS Secretary General.
Almagro is married and has seven children.
During Almagro's time as Foreign Minister (2010-2015), Uruguay drew global recognition for a small South American country as they became the largest per capita contributor to UN peacekeeping forces as well as secured Uruguay's successful election seat to the UN Security Council. Almagro also supported efforts on the restoration of relations between Cuba and the US.
Almagro's commitment to human rights extended to domestic affairs as demonstrated by the active role in the repeal of the 1986 Expiry Law, which granted amnesty for crimes and human rights abuses committed during the civic-military dictatorship between 1973 and 1985, and actively supported prosecutions for these crimes.
A lawyer, Almagro was a member of the Executive Committee that drafted the groundbreaking legislation regulating the possession, growth, and distribution of marijuana in Uruguay in 2013. Uruguay is the first country in the world to introduce legislation of its kind. He also represented Uruguay at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), in the suit brought by Philip Morris International against Uruguay for its anti-tobacco policies. After six years, ICSID ruled in favor of Uruguay.
Also responsible for trade, Almagro also played a key role in expanding and diversifying Uruguay market access, growing exports each year of his term. A key focus was opening up non-traditional markets to Uruguayan exporters, including as securing access to key US markets for Uruguay's citrus fruit.
A strong advocate for refugees, Almagro played an integral role in negotiating the transfer of a group of ex-detenidos (former detainees) from Guantanamo Bay detention camp to Uruguay. Almagro also led the process to welcome dozens of Syrian refugees to Uruguay, along with former President Mujica. For this they were listed among Foreign Policy magazine's top Global Thinkers for 2014. Almagro is one of only 10 decision-makers in the region to be awarded this international distinction.
Almagro was elected Secretary General of the Organization of American States on March 18, 2015, earning the support of 33 of the 34 Members States, including one abstention. He officially took office on May 26, 2015.
Taking over the Organization at a time when questions about the OAS' relevance were augmented by a financial crisis and polarization in the hemisphere, Almagro's first year in office was marked by his outspoken stance on democracy and human rights. His leadership has widely been seen as reinvigorating an Organization.
Almagro's election campaign centered on the idea of "More Rights for More People". In addition to four programmatic pillars of democracy, human rights, security and development, he announced a set of new strategic initiatives to achieve this goal includingThe OAS School of Governance to train civil servants and civil society with the tools for transparent and accountable government
The Inter-American Education System to ensure quality, inclusive, and equitable education
The Regional System for the Prevention of Social Conflicts to facilitate dialogue between investors, states and communities in key productive sectors.
Under the renewed vision, Almagro continues to champion key OAS initiatives including the Inter-American Human Rights System, the Inter-American Judicial Facilitators Program, the MACCIH, and the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP), along with electoral cooperation and observation missions as priorities for the organization.
Anticorruption has been a focus from the outset of Secretary Almagro's term. In the spring of 2015, widespread protests erupted when a multi-million corruption scandal involving the Honduran social security system was uncovered by the local media. In August 2015, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández invited Secretary General Almagro to Honduras to facilitate a dialogue and response to the protests. Almagro met with government representatives, political parties and civil society on how to end impunity and repair trust between the country's government and its citizens.
On January 19, 2016, Secretary General Almagro and the Government of Honduras signed an agreement creating the OAS Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH). The MACCIH created an international anti-corruption team of investigators and judges to work with Honduran judges, prosecutors and police officers to better investigate and prosecute complex public corruption cases. While the Mission's focus is to investigate cases involving networks of public and private corruption, it will also support reform in four key areas: preventing and fighting corruption, criminal justice reform, political and electoral reform and public security. The first members of the MACCIH arrived in Honduras in April 2016.
The initiative "Protecting our Home Common Home: Ensuring more rights for more people in the Americas" is organized through the cooperation of the OAS, the Vatican and the Inter-religious Institute for Dialogue. The inaugural meeting on September 7–8, 2016, established a Hemispheric Network of Dialogue for the Common Home which creates platform for dialogue between countries of OAS Member States and religious leaders to support reconciliation and the search for solutions to promote peace and stability, in line with Article 2 of the OAS Charter.
Following the suspension of the second round of presidential elections on January 24, 2016, President Michel Martelly requested assistance from OAS Secretary General Almagro to facilitate a discussion on finding a way forward. On January 29, an OAS Special Mission travelled to Haiti to assess the situation and help reach an understanding "agreed by Haitians." The Mission engaged in dialogue with key political and civil society stakeholders facilitating a consensus formula for next steps. On February 6, 2016, former President Martelly announced a transitional agreement electing an interim President and confirming a consensus Prime Minister.
After the completion of the Mission, the Representative of Haiti to the OAS, Jean Josué Pierre, applauded the OAS, stating that "the Mission not only supported and accompanied the negotiations, but has reestablished the image of the Organization."
Almagro has been critical of the slow progress to resolve the political impasse; "It is imperative for Haitian political stakeholders, including Parliamentarians and those provisionally governing the country, to fully assume their responsibilities towards the nation. The interests of the Haitian people must supersede partisan interests."
In the lead up to the December 2015 congressional elections in Venezuela, Secretary General Almagro sent an 18-page open letter to the president of that country's National Electoral Council (CNE) in which he publicly denounced “the Government's violations of human rights and efforts to undermine the December 2015 elections through the monopolization of the media, interference in the election process, oppression of free assembly and the detention of political prisoners″. The letter represented the first open criticism of the Venezuelan government by a senior diplomat from the region. The former president of Uruguay, José Mujica, declares about him : “I regret the direction that you chose to follow and I know it is irreversible, so now, I tell you goodbye”.
As the situation in Venezuela deteriorated dramatically after the December elections, in June 2016, Secretary General Almagro released a 114 page report detailing the deteriorating economic situation and humanitarian crisis. Under article 20, the Secretary General invoked the Inter-American Democratic Charter on the grounds that Venezuela has experienced "an alteration of the constitutional order". Key recommendations from the report include the immediate release of all political prisoners; implementation of the constitutionally mandated recall referendum before the end of 2016; a return to the balance of powers between the Judicial, Executive, and Legislative branches of government; a bi-partisan review of judicial appointments; and, the establishment of an independent body to combat corruption.
The Secretary General continues to lead the international community in advocating publicly on behalf of “political prisoners” and for a return to the constitutional order in Venezuela. On September 23, Almagro expressed dismay at the rules and timetable published by the CNE that further delayed the recall process into 2017, guaranteeing that the ruling party remains in power until the end of the term in 2019. "The recall referendum belongs to the people, and it is up to the CNE to ensure the guarantees for the free expression of the people, instead of curtailing and trying to annul their rights."