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OAS chief resigns amid graft allegations

The newly named head of the Organization of American States resigned Friday amid charges of corruption.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The head of the Organization of American States resigned Friday, just two weeks into his tenure after allegations that he participated in a bribery scandal involving a French telephone company.

Secretary-General Miguel Angel Rodriguez disclosed his resignation in a letter read to a special session of the OAS Permanent Council. The resignation takes effect on Oct. 15.

The first allegations of wrongdoing against Rodriguez surfaced Sept. 30 and prompted a call by Costa Rica’s president for his resignation.

In his letter, Rodriguez said he did not want to subject the OAS to a “cruel and long persecution of its secretary-general,” not only in judicial proceedings but also in the media.

“With humility, pain and anguish, I ask you and your countries for forgiveness for making you endure this difficult period,” Rodriguez said in his letter. It was read to the 34-member council by Costa Rica’s OAS Ambassador Luis Guardia.

The former Costa Rican president will be succeeded by the second-ranking official in the OAS, American Luigi Einaudi, a former State Department official.

Rodriguez made his decision after Costa Rica’s attorney general said Rodriguez does not have immunity from prosecution on allegations that he accepted $140,000 in a deal involving the French telephone company Alcatel.

Rodriguez was sworn in Sept. 23 to a five-year term as chief of the world’s oldest regional organization. Eleven hemisphere heads of state and government attended the ceremony at OAS headquarters in Washington.

President George Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell had other commitments so the United States was represented by Attorney General John Ashcroft.