U.S. Hopes to Block Venezuela from Security Council
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The U.S. has been lobbying hard to keep Venezuela off the U.N. Security Council. Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, says he'll stay in the running for a seat that opens up next year.
NPR's Michele Kelemen reports on this latest diplomatic squabble in an already tense relationship between the U.S. and a key oil supplier.
MICHELE KELEMEN reporting:
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, and other Bush administration officials have been working hard behind the scenes to lobby Latin American countries and other U.N. member states to choose Guatemala instead of Venezuela to fill a rotating seat on the Security Council.
Mr. JOHN BOLTON (U.S. Ambassador, United Nations): Guatemala is a democracy. I think it has a lot of support in the Western hemisphere and around the world and, you know, we'll see how the election turns out.
KELEMEN: Here in Washington today Bolton explained why the U.S. is going out of its way to keep Venezuela off the Security Council.
Mr. BOLTON: We think that it's important to have an effectively functioning Security Council and that a country that's been as disruptive as Venezuela would not be a good participant in sensitive Security Council discussions. We don't normally get into this sort of thing, but it's because we are concerned about keeping the Security Council as effective as possible that we've taken this position.
KELEMEN: Christopher Sabatini of the non-profit group the Americas Society Council of the Americas understands why the U.S. may not want Venezuela on the Security Council at this juncture.
Mr. CHRISTOPHER SABATINI (Americas Society Council of the Americas): Venezuela did create an alliance with Cuba and other countries on Iran. And confronting now the issue of Iran in the U.N., the United States is going to want to make sure that it lines up a series of countries that are going to back up its collective position with the E.U. on the situation in Iran. And Venezuela has not shown that level of being a responsible partner in the U.N.
KELEMEN: But, he says, the U.S. needs to tread lightly, since this anti-Venezuela campaign could backfire. Sabatini says countries in the region are cautious about Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's influence, but they aren't ready to take sides with the U.S. Larry Burns, of the Washington based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, says this is becoming an issue of regional solidarity.
Mr. LARRY BURNS (Council on Hemispheric Affairs): Even those countries that feel uneasy with Chavez's blustering style or are personally put off by him, see in this a much higher purpose. That is that the United States cannot decree how Latin America should vote or the kind of political positions it should take in the future.
KELEMEN: Some diplomats, including officials from Chile, have raised hopes that Latin American countries can agree on a consensus candidate and avoid what's likely to be a divisive general assembly vote in October.
Venezuelan diplomats in Washington and New York were not available to comment for this story, but earlier this month, President Chavez made clear he will push hard for the Security Council seat. He has portrayed this as a David versus Goliath fight. Larry Burns says this approach will probably pay off.
Mr. BURNS: The United States just doesn't get it. It doesn't realize how isolated it is in the region. It doesn't realize how unpopular its policies are.
KELEMEN: And there's growing frustration that the Bush administration seems fixated on Venezuela. Christopher Sabatini says countries in the region want to talk with the Bush administration about something other than Chavez.
Mr. SABATINI: There's a number of countries and issues in the region that the U.S. should be concerned about. Whether it's trade with our friends in Chile and Brazil, Mexico, that are being treated as backburner issues because of a focus on the noise that's being made by the Venezuelan government in a number of areas.
KELEMEN: Sabatini says Hugo Chavez may be a problem for the U.S. and others in the region, but this issue shouldn't be the driver of America's policy in the hemisphere.
Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.