Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation
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DECO

The Team

Director

Gerardo de Icaza
Gerardo de Icaza has been Director of the Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation since March 1, 2014. In his years as Director, he has led more than 80 Electoral Observation Missions in more than 27 countries. In 2018, he served as Acting Secretary for Strengthening of Democracy from February to July. Previously, at the National Electoral Institute of Mexico (INE) he served as Deputy Legal Director for Overseas Voting and as Coordinator of the Technical Committee of Specialists on Overseas Voting. He was a law clerk, and then Head of the International Affairs Unit in the Electoral Tribunal of Mexico. He studied Law and has a Master's Degree in International Relations and Communication. He has taught at several universities and is a well-known speaker in the democracy circuit. His most recent publication "International Law of Democracy" coordinated with Luis Almagro, is one of his numerous publications on democracy and electoral systems.

Section Chief

Brenda Santamaría
Chief of the Electoral Observation Section, leading and coordinating activities related to the deployment of Electoral Observation Missions (EOMs). Brenda has served as Interim Director of the Department of of Electoral Cooperation and Observation since February to July 2018. Since she joined the team in 2007, Brenda has participated in more than 50 EOMs as Deputy Chief and Press Officer, among other positions. She also monitored DECO's communication activities and coordinated the development of online courses, face-to-face trainings and meetings aimed at strengthening the capacities of electoral authorities in the region. She has more than 18 years of professional experience in journalism, institutional communications, elections and international relations. She holds a Master's degree in International Studies from Torcuato Di Tella University and a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires.

Section Chief

Cristóbal Fernández
Cristobal Fernandez has been Chief of the Electoral Technical Cooperation Section since 2017. He coordinates the electoral cooperation projects that the Organization of American States implements in its Member States. He studied Law at the University of Chile and has an LL.M in International Law from American University. He has participated in more than 25 Electoral Observation Missions (EOMs). He has been Deputy Chief of several EOMs in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. He has coordinated and participated in technical cooperation projects in several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, on issues such as electoral registry, electoral organization, electoral justice, transmission of results and electoral reforms. He is co-author of the methodology to observe the electoral participation of indigenous peoples and afro-descendants, and the “Guide to organizing elections during a pandemic.”

Specialists

Alex Bravo
A specialist in DECO since August 2009, Alex is responsible for managing projects in the areas of technical cooperation, electoral technology observation, comprehensive audits of electoral registries and software generation for the management of electoral technical cooperation. Alex is a computer science engineer; he did his undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland and holds a Master of Science in Computer Security from George Washington University.

Daniel Tovar
Daniel joined DECO in 2015. As an electoral specialist, he has participated in more than 30 Electoral Observation and Cooperation Missions, across 20 countries in the region, as Deputy Chief, General Coordinator, Methodology Coordinator, Specialist in Electoral Organization and Political Participation with a Gender Perspective, Regional Coordinator, and International Observer. Prior to the OAS, he served as a consultant in the political and press office at the Delegation of the European Union in Colombia. Daniel studied Law at the Andrés Bello Catholic University of Venezuela. He holds a master’s degree in International and Comparative Law, specialization in International Human Rights Law from George Washington University, and a master’s degree in International Relations from the Externado de Colombia University.

Gerardo Sánchez
Gerardo has more than 20 years of experience in electoral issues; he studied political science and obtained a master's degree in Public Policy and a Diploma in Political Analysis. During his professional development, he worked in both electoral courts and electoral administrative bodies. He joined DECO in 2015. He has participated in more than 25 Electoral Observation Missions as Deputy Chief of Mission, Regional Coordinator, Electoral Organization Specialist, Media and Campaign Funding Specialist and Observer. In the area of technical cooperation, he has designed and implemented several projects in conjunction with international cooperation agencies. He is certified as an (ISO Electoral) Auditor in quality management systems (ISO 9001: 2015 and TS 17582: 2014).

Ignacio Álvarez Ignacio Álvarez
Ignacio holds a degree in International Relations from the University of the Republic of Uruguay. He studied at the José Ortega y Gasset University Research Institute in Spain, where he obtained his Master's degree in Applied Political Studies. He has been a DECO Specialist since 2015 and has more than 14 years of international experience in political-electoral processes and democracy in the region. He has participated in more than 50 Electoral Observation Missions as deputy chief, general coordinator, and specialist in electoral organization. He worked in the State Protocol and Ceremonial Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Uruguay and was an advisor to the international cooperation management body at the General Department of Relations and Cooperation (DGRC) of the University of the Republic.

Martín Ferreiro Martín Ferreiro
Martín, an Argentinean citizen, joined the DECO team in 2017. He graduated with honors from the Political Science degree from the University of Buenos Aires, and is currently a candidate to the Master's degree in Data Science from American University. He has experience in research on electoral and public management issues. He has participated in more than 30 Electoral Observation Missions as an observer, regional coordinator, gender specialist, financing specialist, methodology coordinator, and general coordinator.

Martin Huenneke
Since becoming part of the he DECO team in 2016, Martin has participated in Electoral Observation Missions in the role of general coordinator, methodology coordinator, political finance specialist, regional coordinator, and observer. Prior to joining DECO, Martin had more than 15 years of experience with the OAS in the areas of project management and evaluation, technical support for political processes, and resource mobilization. He was also in charge of relations with the 70 Permanent Observers of the OAS and coordinated inter-institutional and civil society relations. Before joining the OAS, Martin worked as a continuing education instructor and in the administration of educational programs in Texas and Mexico. He is a US citizen and holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Political Science from the University of Missouri, a Master's degree in Latin American Studies from the University of New Mexico, and a Master’s in Education from New Mexico State University.

Melene Glynn
Melene, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, joined the team in January 2017. She has more than 20 years of experience in international development, political analysis and diplomacy, with a focus on the Caribbean region. Previously she served as the OAS Representative in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, in charge of the implementation of OAS activities in the country. Melene has participated in more than 25 Electoral Observation Missions as deputy chief, regional coordinator and political analyst, among other positions. She holds a Master's degree in International Studies from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom and a Bachelor's Degree in French and French Literature from the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago.

Yerutí Méndez
Yerutí is a Paraguayan citizen, joined DECO as a specialist in 2014. She is responsible for the internal coordination of the department as well as the Inter-American Meeting of Electoral Management Bodies. Yerutí has participated in more than 30 OAS Electoral Observation Missions as deputy chief, general coordinator, and other positions. She joined the OAS in 2006, at the Young Americas Business Trust (YABT), where she served as Deputy Executive Director. Yerutí has ​​a Master’s degree in Government from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelors’ degree in Political Science from the University of Maryland. She has contributed to the development of OAS manuals to observe electoral justice systems (2019) and the political participation of indigenous and afro-descendant people (2015). She has collaborated in other publications such as the "Guide to Organizing elections during a pandemic" (2020), and "Literacy and Digital Security: Best Practices in the Use of Twitter" (2019 and 2020). 

Luisa Ferreira Peralta
Luisa is a DECO specialist since April 2019 and a PhD candidate at Georgetown University. She has a master's degree in international law –SPILS- from Stanford University (2015) and is a law degree from the Universidad de los Andes (2012). Her work focuses on human rights, democracy, and participation in environmental issues. She served as First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the Organization of American States. The Human Rights Center of the Stanford University Law School awarded her a scholarship to work for a year at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2015). Previously, first as a researcher and later as coordinator of the Global Justice and Human Rights Program at Universidad de los Andes, she dedicated herself to empirical legal research focused on Colombia and Latin America.

Anja Brenes
A Costa Rican citizen and polyglot, Anja joined the DECO team in November 2019. She has participated in more than 10 Electoral Observation Missions (EOM) in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Bolivia, as general coordinator, press officer, regional coordinator, observer and administrative assistant. In 2015, she completed a three-month internship at the OAS Press Department. She completed her university studies at the University Center of Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil and the Universidad Latina of Costa Rica. She has a BA in Audiovisual and Digital Production, a BA in Journalism, and is currently completing her Master's Degree in Digital Transformation of Business at the Universidad Latina of Costa Rica. She has more than 5 years of experience as a reporter and presenter, as well as a senior advisor for multinational companies.

Paulina Chávez
Paulina joined the DECO team in 2020 as a communications specialist and serves as a press officer for the Electoral Observation Missions. She started her career more than 14 years ago as a TV reporter and anchor. In the Mexican government sector, she has worked as a communication advisor to the Attorney General, chief of staff to the Secretary of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development, and chief of staff and head of the press and public affairs section at the Embassy of Mexico in the United States. She has a BA in Communications from Universidad Intercontinental and a Master´s degree in Political Management from George Washington University. Originally from Mexico City, she has lived in Washington, D.C. since 2013, where she has also worked as a communications consultant for non-profit organizations and a political commentator in several news organizations.

Paula Lekanda
Paula has been a DECO specialist since 2021, where she works in the technical cooperation area and focuses on disinformation and elections. Since 2014, she has participated as a specialist in political-electoral financing, direct democracy, regional coordinator, and observer in a dozen elections in the region. With more than a decade of experience in governance, elections, transparency, the intersection between business and human rights, gender, and technology, she has also worked as a parliamentary advisor in the Chilean Congress and as senior program officer in the National Democratic Institute. She has also served as an adjunct professor at the Institute of Political Science of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Paula has a Master´s degree in Public Administration from Columbia University, a Master in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), and has completed postgraduate courses at Harvard Kennedy School. She is a Political Scientist with a degree in History from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

Ina Chaves
Iná Chaves is a specialist in the OAS Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation, where she has been integrating electoral observation missions since 2018, fulfilling various roles. She is a lawyer graduated from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and has a master's degree in International Relations and Human Rights from Sciences Po Paris, where she focused her studies on journalism, Latin America, freedom of expression and disinformation.

Marina Ulecia
Marina Ulecia is a Venezuelan and Argentinian citizen, and she joined the DECO team in 2021. She holds a BA in International Studies from the Universidad Central de Venezuela. Marina worked as a Venezuelan diplomat for seven years, and during that period she served as Electoral Commissioner of Venezuela in Washington D.C. in two presidential elections and coordinator of a presidential visit to the United Nations. She has also worked in the Department of Administrative Affairs at the Chilean Embassy in Washington D.C.; in the Department of Documentation in the Consular Section of the Embassy of Mexico in Washington D.C.; and the Cultural Section of the Consulate of Venezuela in New York.

Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation

1889 F St., N.W.
Washington, D.C., 20006
E-mail: deco@oas.org
Phone: (202) 370-4526
Fax: (202) 458-6250