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Venezuela’s Security Council Election Inspires Controversy

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 17 2014 (IPS) - Venezuela’s election to the U.N. Security Council is inspiring controversy even before it votes on a single resolution.

On Thursday the U.N. General Assembly elected Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela to serve as non-permanent members of the Security Council for the next two years, beginning January 1st.

Angola, Malaysia and Venezuela ran uncontested in their respective regional groups, while New Zealand and Spain fought off Turkey to claim the two open spots in the “Western European and Others” group.

Venezuela’s confirmation may not have been surprising, given that it was the only country competing for the Latin American and Caribbean seat, but it was controversial.

Venezuela had previously attempted to secure a place on the Council in 2006, but the United States’ public opposition stopped it in its tracks. Venezuela’s then-president Hugo Chávez had called George W. Bush “the devil” in a speech at the General Assembly less than a month before.

This time around, with Chávez replaced by Nicolás Maduro, the United States held its tongue before the elections.

After the vote, however, it was a different story.

In a statement following the elections, U.S. representative to the U.N. Samantha Power said that “Venezuela’s conduct at the U.N. has run counter to the spirit of the U.N. Charter, and its violations of human rights at home are at odds with the Charter’s letter.”

“The United States will continue to call upon the government of Venezuela to respect the fundamental freedoms and universal human rights of its people,” she said.

Venezuela also attracted criticism from several human rights groups.

“Under the UN Charter, candidates to the Security Council must be those who have contributed to international peace and security,” said Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based NGO. “Yet Venezuela is notorious as the only country at the U.N. Human Rights Council last year to vote against holding Syria accountable, effectively backing its mass murder of 200,000 people.”

With 181 “yes” votes from the General Assembly’s 193 voting members, Venezuelan diplomats and politicians were euphoric.

According to Venezuela’s foreign minister, Rafael Ramirez Carreño, the election was “the result of a long and sustained effort of president Nicolás Maduro when he decided to move forward with its model of the peaceful settlement of conflicts, which has been so successful domestically.”

Ramirez also dedicated the victory to Hugo Chávez, who died in office last year.

Chávez may be gone, but his presence will be felt in the Council. María Gabriela Chávez, Hugo’s daughter, was recently appointed to be Venezuela’s deputy U.N. ambassador.

Venezuela and the other four incoming countries will join current non-permanent members Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania and Nigeria.

The Security Council is made up of five permanent members, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, who all yield veto power, and ten non-permanent members who rotate in two-year cycles.

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