Chavez's Campaign to Sit With the 'Devil'
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's speech to the United Nations last month in which he described President Bush as the "devil" may only be a preview of things to come.
On Monday, the United Nations will vote on Venezuela's bid to become Latin America's non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. The United States is backing Guatemala for the seat. Both countries have been lobbying intensely for support.
"The risk for the US is real," wrote former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Casteneda late last month. "Chavez would probably occupy the seat personally for extended periods at a time, in lieu of his permanent representative or his foreign minister. He would use that magnificent pulpit to glorify his Bolivarian Revolution, to help his friends in Latin America and to thwart his enemies -- Bush, incoming president Felipe Calderon in Mexico, and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe."
The Security Council's five permanent members -- the United States, China, Great Britain, Russia and France -- dominate its proceedings, thanks to their veto power. But the 10 non-permanent members take turns holding the council presidency for one-month stints. "Venezuela could chair the body at least once during its term, serving as its spokesperson and influencing its agenda," notes the Miami Herald.
The winner needs to win votes from two-thirds, or 128, of the U.N.'s 190 member countries. Neither side is predicting victory.
Guatemalan foreign minister Gert Rosenthal said last week he was "both optimistic and cautious, since the dispute is very tight, but we have very good chances of being voted in."
Winning the seat "won't be easy," Chavez said Tuesday, "because imperialism is moving all its pieces, pressuring and attempting to blackmail half the world to try to stop us from entering the security council."
Chavez has sought votes by visiting "more than two dozen countries on five continents this year, many of them more than once," the Economist reported. "Flush with an oil windfall, he has lavished his hosts with donations, and trade and investment concessions. He denies that this amounts to lobbying for votes. But most visits have been accompanied by statements (often by Mr Chavez rather than his hosts) of support for Venezuela's UN candidacy."
According to Mercosur, the South American news agency, Guatemala has "the full support of United States and the European Union" while Venezuela is backed by "a long list of African, Asian and Latin American countries."
"Guatemala's strong suit is US support, especially the latter's ability to cut foreign aid to wavering voters," writes Basil Ince of the Trinidad and Tobago Express. "But on this occasion the US efforts are matched by a country which has offered oil shipments to this region, bought debt bonds from Argentina, and has offered other forms of assistance to African and Asian countries. Venezuela is using its oil as a diplomatic weapon."
One key voting bloc is the Caribbean Community made up of 14 small island nations which have collectively pledged to support Venezuela, according to the BBC.
El Universal, a daily news site in Caracas, says that the Venezuelan state oil company is now giving discounts of $14.71 per barrel to Caricom member countries such as Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti and Dominica.
"So the betting right now is on Venezuela, and against Washington," said Castaneda, Mexico's former foreign minister. "It would be an uphill fight for the US under any circumstances, but it's almost an impossible one given Bush's unpopularity in what was once known as the Third World. Most of its members just met in Havana, and they don't like 43; they don't like Israel, they don't like Tony Blair and they certainly don't like US policy in Iraq and Iran. The American ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, has his work cut out for him."
By Jefferson Morley |
October 13, 2006; 11:31 AM ET
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