U.S. STANCE AGAINST VENEZUELA
By NICK WADHAMS, Associated Press Writer
July 19, 2006
UNITED NATIONS - The United
States is lobbying hard to block Venezuela's bid for a seat on the U.N.
Security Council, fearful that Hugo Chavez, its fiercely anti-American president, will disrupt the body as it
confronts hot issues such as Iran and Sudan.
But interviews with some
15 diplomats of member states reveal substantial wariness about the U.S.
effort, with the critics warning it could boomerang against the U.S. choice,
Guatemala, when the General Assembly votes
A European diplomat, refusing
to be identified further saying he didn't want to anger the Americans, said lobbying against Venezuela would only gain it votes.
Venezuela's U.N. ambassador, Francisco Arias Cardenas, agrees. "We're a smaller nation but nonetheless this campaign
that the U.S. has been taking against
us works in our favor," he said in an interview. "We now are all over the news."
that its campaign is pro-Guatemala, not anti-Venezuela. Venezuela
has served four times on the Security Council. Guatemala,
emerging from years of brutal U.S.-backed dictatorship, has never had a seat but is a leading contributor of troops to U.N.
Yet Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Ambassador John Bolton have
singled out Venezuela's candidacy for criticism, and Washington has outlined its objections in a position paper for its ambassadors
worldwide to present to their host governments.
The context is critical,
it says, because of the important topics the council will likely face next year: suspect nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, peacekeeping in Sudan, and the launch of
the Peacebuilding Commission that is meant to help countries make the transition from conflict to peace.
has shown that it is more concerned with disrupting international events than in working constructively to achieve common
goals," said the paper, obtained by The Associated Press.
Ten of the council's 15
seats are filled by the regional groups for two-year stretches. The other five are occupied by its veto-wielding permanent
members: Britain, China,
France, Russia and the
Normally, the Latin American
group would fill the council seat with its own choice. But this year, because both Guatemala
and Venezuela want the seat, the vote
will be by secret ballot. That means governments can promise one thing, and vote otherwise. Guatemala
and Venezuela both say they have a majority
in the 192-state assembly.
Forecasting the vote is
tricky and many member states say they have not decided which country to back.
The 50 European nations,
which include the United States, are thought likely to support Guatemala. The 33-nation Latin American bloc will probably
support Venezuela, and the 53 countries
in the African group are expected to tilt toward it as well. Asia's 54 nations are said to
Of the two nations not belonging
to a group, Israel
would likely vote for Guatemala, while Montenegro's position is not known.
In any case, the U.S. doesn't always get its way. In 2000 it blocked Sudan and Mauritius
won the council seat. But in 2005 It backed Nicaragua and Peru won.
The topic of Venezuela's candidacy is so touchy that some governments which
oppose it have ordered their officials not to discuss it. But on-the-record comments that have come out reflect the ill feeling.
Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur is irked that the lobbying so far has been American, not Guatemalan. "They
should speak to us directly rather than send somebody to us to speak on their behalf," he said.
Guatemala's U.N. ambassador, Jorge Skinner-Klee, said the U.S.-Venezuela battle has "poisoned the atmosphere beyond
"We would have preferred
that people look into why Guatemala is
running and why we can make a good nonpermanent member in the council," he said.
In an interview, Bolton
joked that the United States could be for Guatemala or against it — whichever would help it win.
"I don't see anything wrong
with stating your position," he said. "We're not throwing our weight around."
Chavez has campaigned energetically
to raise Venezuela's profile and counter what he calls U.S. hegemony. The countries he plans to visit this summer
include Iran and Belarus,
which are sharply at odds with the West, and Cardenas, the Venezuelan ambassador, said a trip to North Korea is also in the works.
Chavez pushed his Security
Council bid at a summit of African leaders early this month, and Venezuela
has won observer status in the Arab League, which has expressed support for its council bid.
Long before the U.S. opposed Venezuela's ambitions, Chavez
began strengthening his international alliances through active diplomacy and cut-price oil exports to Caribbean
Venezuela denies it will be a spoiler in the council, but promises to stand up for poor countries.
"We are trying to look for
a balance between the powers around the world," said Cardenas.
"We are not only good for south countries, we are also good for those countries that do not want "X" country to impose its
views on them."