Caracas, October 20, 2006—After the fourth day of voting at the United Nations yesterday, members of the General Assembly still failed to elect either Venezuela or Guatemala for the seat as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. The voting will now be suspended for five days during which time it is hoped a compromise candidate will be negotiated. Neither of the two Latin American countries seems prepared to withdraw from the contest.
Apart from the 6th round of voting which was tied 93-93, Guatemala has continuously scored higher than Venezuela and yesterday was no different with Venezuela scoring between 77 and 81 votes but Guatemala reaching between 103 and 108. However, there have now been 35 rounds in total and in 34 of those each country’s support has appeared solid. This means it is unlikely that either contestant will achieve the required two thirds majority needed to win the election outright.
In what appeared to be a cry of desperation yesterday, Guatemalan President publicly asked his fellow Latin American countries, Ecuador, Perú and Chile, who have been abstaining from the vote, to vote instead for his country. He had tried to contact them directly but to no avail, “Unfortunately they were on public engagements out of their offices,” he said.
Gert Rosenthal the Guatemalan ambassador to the UN seemed more ready to accept a consensus candidate even though he said, “we aren’t happy about it being so close to the two thirds.”
Venezuela too seems ready to negotiate a compromise but refuse to concede to Guatemala as that would mean a victory for US power at the UN. “What is being played out is a game of very hard and strong pressure by the United States. It isn’t possible that we withdraw because that would be to accept the power of the US veto,” said Venezuela’s ambassador to the UN, Francisco Arias Cardenas.
The primary concern for the US delegation appears to be Venezuela losing rather than Guatemala winning. The US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said as much, “Venezuela has lost all the rounds except one, but it insists in making us put up with this process. It is the behaviour that we are worried it would have in the [Security] Council and that would only lead to interruptions.”
It will be down to the UN Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries (Grulac) to negotiate a consensus candidate but this seems difficult given the divisions within the region recently. Grulac includes all countries from the region and it will be the first time they have formally met. “Until now there hasn’t been any meeting of Grulac,” said Argentina’s ambassador the UN, Cesár Mayoral.
One sign of the continuing difficulties came from a Venezuelan government spokesman yesterday. Alberto Muller Rojas, a member of the Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s office, indicated yesterday that his country would not just accept any compromise candidate. “Venezuela should be seeking a South American country in line with us on UN reform,” said Müller Rojas.
There are 10 non-permanent seats on the Security Council and these are filled by regional groups, Grulac being one of those. The non-permanent members do not have the power of veto as do the 5 permanent members, US, Russia, France, UK and China. South Africa, Indonesia, Italy and Belgium were elected non-permanent members by their respective regions without any controversy.