recortes

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Vote for Venezuela Is a Vote for Iran



By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY


There are elections taking place this fall that will have a major impact on Americans. But we're not talking about congressional races at home. This balloting is for the five non-permanent U.N Security Council seats that will open up in 2007.

In Latin America, the competition between Guatemala and Venezuela for the U.N. Security Council seat that Argentina will vacate at the end of this year is of particular importance.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has made it clear that when it comes to geopolitics, his preferences lie with hostile states like Iran, Cuba, Sudan and North Korea. A seat on the Security Council, where the presidency also rotates monthly, would give the Venezuelan strongman ways to make those preferences operational at the multilateral level.

Five of 15 seats on the Security Council are permanent (held by China, Russia, France, Britain and the U.S.). The other 10 slots are two-year terms (see our table). Only permanent seats have veto power but to pass a resolution requires nine ayes. That means every seat matters and if Venezuela gets on the council, it could help block a resolution -- that has not been vetoed -- against its much-admired ally Iran.

Guatemala announced its candidacy for this seat in 2002, but in 2005 Venezuela also threw its sombrero in the ring. U.N. rules say that each region can select its own candidate for an open seat. But if "consensus" around one candidate cannot be reached regionally, the full U.N. general assembly votes in secret ballot. Both Guatemala and Venezuela are working hard to shore up votes for that eventuality.

The Venezuelan ambassador to the U.N. warned the world recently that a vote for Guatemala is a vote for the U.S. There's a grain of truth to that since Guatemala is an American ally, with a government that shares our world-view on multilateral efforts to contain despots. But what is truer still is that a vote for Venezuela is a vote for Iran, which shares the current Venezuelan values of tyranny and aggression.

Guatemala points out that it is a founding member of the U.N. but has never had a seat on the council. It also argues that small countries with valuable experience in the region are too often overlooked for the Security Council and that the last time any Central American country had a seat was in 1997-98.

Yet the Guatemalan campaign goes well beyond arguments about bureaucratic musical chairs. In its drive to win approval from the U.N. membership, it has been accumulating an impressive record of international cooperation by pitching in on a variety of U.N. efforts.

Chief among its qualifications is its active role in international peace-keeping. Coban, in Guatemala, is now home to a Central American regional peacekeeping school and training center. Today, Guatemalan peacekeepers are in the Congo and in Haiti, and military observers and officers are in five other African nations, including Sudan. In January eight Guatemalan peacekeepers were killed in the Congo. In expressing U.S. support for Guatemala's candidacy this week, a State Department spokesman noted the fact that "Guatemalans have shed blood for the U.N.," making the country "a strong candidate, and deserving of support."

Guatemala says it would also bring to the job invaluable lessons from its own bitter 35-year civil war and its success in finding peace since 1996. By sharing this history, it maintains that it can help strengthen U.N. peacekeeping efforts, help countries resolve conflicts and play a positive role in postconflict activities. The U.N. membership seemed to acknowledge the seriousness of Guatemala's efforts recently when it voted the tiny country onto the new human-rights council with 142 votes.

Guatemala emphasizes its democratic credentials, as well as its view that the seat is a voice for the region, not for its own national interests. Compare this to the Venezuelan campaign, which rests largely on oil "diplomacy" and the capacity to push anti-American buttons around the U.N.

It may seem strange that Venezuela has any support in the region. Over the past seven years, its meddling in its neighbors' domestic politics have earned it a reputation as a bully. Mr. Chávez is persona non grata in more than a few Latin nations. Many countries are worried about Venezuela's big spending to acquire fighter jets and 100,000 kalishnikovs from Russia. Yet, despite all this, the Chávez government has money, and this has allowed it to advance its cause.

Of the 33 members in the region, 12 are from English-speaking Caribbean islands. These poor economies (many of them crime-ridden) have become heavily dependent on subsidized Venezuelan oil and on Cuba's legendary traveling doctors and teachers. It wouldn't be surprising if some of these countries were to line up with Venezuela.

Argentina, once a haven for Nazis and more recently a harbor for accused Spanish and Chilean terrorists, is also a Venezuelan pawn now. The country has been so incompetent about managing its resources that it too needs charity from Mr. Chávez, making it about as independent from the oil dictatorship as Bolivia and Cuba. More surprising is Brazil's decision to side with Mr. Chávez, who as Bolivia's unofficial energy adviser orchestrated the confiscation of Brazilian assets there recently. Apparently, the eternal Brazilian struggle to prove that it can challenge U.S. "hegemony" in the region trumps the need to regain dignity and protect its investments abroad.

In spite of all this, Guatemala has the solid backing of the more serious democracies in the region -- such as Colombia and Mexico -- and insists that it will not withdraw its candidacy. That means that in all likelihood the vote will probably go to the General Assembly. Guatemala believes it can win that ballot. Let's hope so. If not, Latin America will have handed Iran a victory that is likely to threaten world peace.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home