Venezuela Stymied Again in U.N. Vote
Tuesday, October 17, 2006; 6:36 PM
UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 17 -- Venezuela was stymied for a second straight day in its bid to win a seat on the U.N. Security Council, a result that has shocked diplomats who expected President Hugo Chavez's leftist, oil-rich government to gain a platform on the international stage.
Guatemala led Venezuela in each of the 12 rounds of secret voting held by the General Assembly on Tuesday. On Monday, Guatemala won nine of the first 10 rounds. But neither country has secured the required two-thirds vote to succeed Argentina on Jan. 1 in the open Latin American seat on the 15-nation council.
The voting is scheduled to continue Thursday morning.
Delegates at the United Nations once predicted that Venezuela would easily receive enough support for the seat. But the opening ballot Monday showed Guatemala ahead 114 to 74 . Venezuela gained votes through the day but never did better than a 93 to 93 tie with Guatemala. Afterward, several envoys expressed surprise that Venezuela had fared so poorly.
On Tuesday, Venezuela could muster no more than 85 votes in any single round. Guatemala attracted as many as 112 votes but consistently fell a dozen or more votes short of the required total in each round.
Venezuela's showing has come as a relief to the United States, which has lobbied actively on behalf of Guatemala. Chavez's government, U.S. officials warned, would play a destructive role on the council, lending its support to those countries, including Iran, Sudan and North Korea, that have defied the United Nations.
It also represented a personal blow to Chavez, who had run a costly political campaign that involved millions of dollars in aid to poor countries as well as state visits to Russia, China and the Middle East.
Chavez may have undercut his country's chances with a provocative speech last month before the General Assembly, in which he described President Bush as "the devil." And once-solid support for Venezuela in South America, from countries including Chile and Paraguay, wavered after Chavez's government entered into a military pact with Bolivia, which has lost territory to both those countries.
The United States, Britain, China, Russia and France enjoy permanent membership on the 15-member Security Council. The other 10 seats are distributed regionally for two-year terms; a vote by the General Assembly fills five seats each year. South Africa, Indonesia, Italy and Belgium were easily elected Monday for their regions.
But the deadlock over the Latin American seat raised the prospect of a long election and that a compromise candidate--possibly Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay or Chile--might enter the race. Mexico and Cuba received single votes on some ballots Monday.
Chavez has been hostile to Washington for years, but he has been particularly antagonistic since the White House offered tacit support for a 2002 coup that briefly removed him from power. Venezuela's U.N. ambassador, Francisco Javier Arias Cardenas, characterized the race as a challenge between a fearless champion of the developing world and the world's lone superpower.
"We are not competing with a brother country. We are competing with the biggest power on the planet," he said.