Venezuela’s Maduro to push for seat on UN Security Council

President to address an international forum for the first time since he replaced the late Hugo Chávez

President Maduro in Miraflores on Monday.
President Maduro in Miraflores on Monday.EFE

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro says he plans to take “the truth about Venezuela” to the 69th United Nations General Assembly, which begins on Wednesday at the organization’s headquarters in New York. Maduro shared his intention during a visit to the northern state of Aragua, where he told the nation that he would be “the voice of dignity, the voice of Chávez,” and “the voice of Alba,” the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America, which includes Venezuela and 10 other countries.

The event will mark Maduro’s first speech at an international forum as president. In 2012, while foreign minister, he addressed the General Assembly as the almost literal “voice of Hugo Chávez.” Chávez was facing a crucial moment in his election campaign, as well as entering – perhaps without knowing it – the final phase of his battle against cancer when he wrote a speech for Maduro to read at the UN.

In 2013, during his first year in office, Maduro sent Foreign Minister Elías Jaua to New York to represent Venezuela at the global conference, saying he preferred to avoid the “provocations” that the American city would have prepared in order to make an “attempt” on his life.

That this year he has decided to attend does not mean that security in New York has improved, however. Maduro is heading to the conference to back Venezuela’s campaign for a permanent seat on the Security Council.

Caracas will need the votes of two-thirds of the 193 nations in the plenary – a mere formality

The last time the Chavista regime tried to get the seat, in 2006, the United States blocked its efforts and supported Guatemala as the candidate to represent the Latin American bloc. After three deadlock votes, Panama had to stand as candidate in order to offer a compromise.

The next vote for new Security Council members will take place in October. Caracas will have to get the votes of two-thirds of the 193 countries in the plenary – a mere formality, given that this time it has been more successful in rallying support. Foreign Ministry staff members boast of having had the unanimous backing of the Latin American and Caribbean bloc for Venezuela’s candidacy since July. After the failed 2006 attempt, Chávez – and his then-foreign minister, Maduro – developed an aggressive form of diplomacy that led to the creation of regional organizations such as the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac) – both of which were formed to exclude the hemisphere’s two big powers, the United States and Canada.

This Sunday several editorials in US newspapers warned against Venezuela’s imminent entry into the Security Council. The New York Times suggested that large democracies such as Brazil, Mexico and Colombia lead an effort to prevent Caracas from representing the region “when it is fast becoming an embarrassment on the continent.” The Washington Post wrote “Venezuela doesn’t deserve a seat on the UN Security Council.” The newspaper’s editorial board said the Barack Obama administration “could help itself and send a message to Mr Maduro by rounding up the 65 votes needed to keep Venezuela off the Security Council.”

A seat on the Council would feel like a show of recognition for the Maduro administration at a time when it is facing a severe economic crisis characterized by chronic shortages of consumer goods and industrial raw materials and the highest inflation rate on the planet. Caracas attributes the difficulties to “an economic war” waged by imperialism and the local bourgeoisie, and blames the recent rash of dengue fever and chikungunya outbreaks on a “bacterial war.”

A Council seat would be a show of recognition for the Maduro administration at a time when it is facing a severe economic crisis

As Venezuela becomes embroiled in this diplomatic battle, Maduro will probably condemn these so-called “fourth and fifth” generation attacks before the General Assembly. During a televised speech on Monday, the president also mentioned Israeli attacks on Gaza, saying that he would fulfill his duty to “seek a world of peace and the end of bombings and massacres,” while attending the conference in New York.

Maduro did not say when he would arrive in the United States. But he defiantly proclaimed that while “taking all necessary security measures, an editorial in The Washington Post or The New York Times will not keep me from making this trip.”

Still, while the president was preparing his visit, he received some unfortunate news from Washington. The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression at the Organization of American States (OAS) issued a statement on Monday to express “its deepest concern for the deterioration of the right to freedom of expression in Venezuela in light of the recent events that took place in that country. These events include the continued stigmatization by high-level public officials of critical media outlets and journalists, punitive lawsuits and the dismissal of journalists, and the reported blocking of the internet signal of media outlets.”

Venezuela and some of its allies in the region – Ecuador in particular – have led a fierce offensive against OAS human rights defense groups, which they call “a bureaucracy” set against their progressive governments.

The statement is one of the last few actions Rapporteur Catalina Botero (Colombia) is likely to make in the role. Uruguayan Edison Lanza is scheduled to take over the post on October 6.  

Translation: Dyane Jean François

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