Venezuela and Guatemala Compromise on UN Security Council Seat: Panama

Venezuela and Guatemala announced yesterday that they agreed on Panama as a compromise candidate for the rotating UN Security Council seat that the two had been contesting.

Caracas, November 2, 2006 (— Venezuela and Guatemala announced yesterday that they agreed on Panama as a compromise candidate for the rotating UN Security Council seat that the two had been contesting. After 47 rounds of voting in which neither Venezuela nor Guatemala was able to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority, a country representing Latin America and the Caribbean was thus finally found.

Panama’s nomination was presented to the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries (GRULAC) today, which has the right to nominate Latin America’s candidate to the UN Security council as long as all member countries agree to the candidate.

Diego Cordovez, Ecuador’s ambassador to the UN announced the agreement yesterday, following intense meetings between the ambassadors of Guatemala, Gert Rosenthal, and of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro.

Last week Venezuela’s President Chavez had suggested Bolivia as a compromise candidate, but the proposal never seemed to be taken seriously by Guatemala, which had to agree to the proposal, for it to withdraw its candidacy for the seat. Next, Venezuela proposed the Dominican Republic, which Guatemala seemed to accept, but then ended up rejecting. Panama was thus a surprise candidate, since its name hadn’t been previously mentioned.

The 47 voting rounds that began on October 16 kept giving Guatemala an advantage of between 100 and 108 votes to Venezuela’s 77 to 85 votes. The tenth round, though, was tied 93 to 93. Since neither side achieved a two-thirds majority of 124 of the UN’s 192 members, no candidate won.

According to most accounts, Venezuela enjoyed the support of most South American and Caribbean nations, while Guatemala enjoyed the support of Mexico, Central America, Colombia, and Peru.

Venezuela accused the U.S. of placing massive amounts of pressure on countries to vote for its favored candidate, Guatemala. U.S. officials denied they were pressuring UN members, but U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said today that the U.S. government’s “objective,” of preventing Venezuela from taking the UN security councils seat had been “accomplished.”

“We don’t normally get involved in regional group decisions,” Bolton said. “We did only because of the threat that we thought Venezuelan obstructionism posed to the good operation of the Security Council, and I think that the overwhelming majority of the General Assembly members understood that.”

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro, thanked the countries that supported Venezuela in its bid. He also thanked Guatemala, saying, “In the name of President Hugo Chavez we want to ratify our message of brotherhood and respect of our brothers in Guatemala, its government and its Chancellor [Foreign Minister], with whom we have shared these days.”

Guatemala’s Foreign Minister, Gert Rosenthal, reciprocated the thanks, while showing his disappointment at not having won the Security Council seat.

Meanwhile, Panama’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying expressing gratitude for having been chosen to represent the region. “It wasn’t in our foreign policy plans to be a part of the Security Council in the near future,” the Foreign Ministry said, adding, however, that Panama would do its best to support policies on the council that promote “peace and justice in the world” if elected to the seat.

The ministry said Panama decided to accept the offer because the country “is the only candidate that can contribute to the unity of the region and prevent the prolongation of voting in the General Assembly.”

The Christian Science Monitor quoted Latin America expert Miguel Tinker-Salas as saying, “Chávez was not able to turn his world tours and anti-American rhetoric into enough votes to win the Council seat. But neither could the US impose its candidate, and it got bruised fighting Chávez off.” Tinker-Salas added, “It’s like the lightweight boxer who can hold off the heavyweight for rounds and rounds.” “It ends up saying more about the limits of the heavyweight.”

Roy Chaderton, Venezuela’s former Foreign Minister who had been in charge of Venezuela’s effort to win the UN seat, said, “We’re happy with this outcome at the UN, which marks the start of a worldwide insurgence against the forceful diplomacy of US, which tries to impose its will on sovereign countries.”

According to the BBC, the prediction of some opposition leaders that Venezuela’s inability to win the UN seat would cost Chavez votes was contradicted by the opposition analyst Alberto Garrido, who said, “The setback at the UN will be forgotten here very soon by voters. I doubt it will register at all with many of them. Of course, the opposition will try to capitalize from it but they won’t dwell on it because there’s not much to be gained from a narrow debate on the UN bid.”