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Opinion on UN Security Council vote

For the last several months, as Venezuela waged a determined campaign to gain a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council, the United States ran an equally determined campaign to keep them off. The vote will occur October 16th.

The Caracas Connect team asked Eric Wingerter, Public Education Director at the Venezuela Information Office (VIO) in Washington, D.C., to comment on the upcoming UN Security Council Vote. VIO represents Venezuela in Washington.

Q. What is a temporary seat on the UN Security Council? Why has this become such a big deal?

A. The temporary seat rotates every two years. Each region gets a representative. Right now Argentina has the Latin American seat, and Venezuela and Guatemala are the only two countries officially campaigning for the slot. Normally, these are non-controversial decisions. The regions usually decide by consensus who will be the next candidate. But because of Venezuela's growing prominence and the huge "diplomatic" push from the U.S. in support of Guatemala, the two camps dug in their heels early on. If Latin America as a region comes to no clear consensus (on which candidate should get the seat) it goes to a vote by all member nations in the general assembly. Hence, the lobbying campaigns by Venezuela in Africa and the Middle East, and the Bush Administration's push in Europe.

Q. How does this work procedurally, and do you think Venezuela will win?

A. In the first round of voting, a country needs to get 2/3 of the full vote in order to gain its seat. Right now, Venezuela has a clear majority but probably not enough to reach that 2/3 threshold. A number of things can happen at this point. They'll probably go through a few rounds of secret ballot votes with the two sides wheeling and dealing behind the scenes. I think that Venezuela is hoping that some countries, when they see that Venezuela has majority support, will change their vote and side with the majority. Of course, threats of U.S. aid cutoffs may swing the 2nd and 3rd round of voting in their favor. Another possibility is that there is a deadlock after a number of rounds of votes, and at that point a 3rd Latin American nation could offer itself as a non-controversial candidate. Uruguay has been often cited as a possibility. If that is the case, the campaign by both Venezuela and Guatemala is essentially over. At this point, Venezuela has a strong chance, but because this will likely get into additional rounds of voting, all bets are off.

Q. Why seek this seat?

A. The best answer is that Venezuelans and other Latin American countries are tired of countries in their region acting as virtual rubber stamps for the interests of the global North. There are real concerns about poverty and peace that will be decided by the Security Council in the years ahead, not the least of which will deal with a possible invasion of Iran. The Venezuela supporters are countries that would like to see a greater emphasis placed on the needs of the developing world, rather than the needs of the wealthiest countries. The fact that the battle is as far along as it is reflects a growing consciousness in Latin America and Africa in particular that the old power structures, based largely along colonial powers vs. the colonized, are outdated and unhelpful to their countries' needs.

Our thanks to Eric. We welcome your comments.


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