Developing US Confrontation with Venezuela – D. Hamilton and C. Mychalejko

A serious confrontation is developing between the US and Venezuela over the next seat open on the UN Security Council to be filled by a Latin American country. This change is to take place January 2007. The decision is to be made by October.

Venezuela is actively campaigning for the position. No other country is campaigning for the position on its own. However, the US, which does not have a vote in the decision, is pressuring Latin American nations to support Guatemala.

In January I wrote that Guatemala was sending its foreign minister to Caracas because two years of the Berger government sucking up to the US had not produced meaningful results. Apparently, that was a ploy to get the US to do something for Guatemala. It seems that the payoff is US sponsorship of a 2-year term on the UN Security Council for small, impoverished Guatemala. Cost to the US – zero. Of course, as the Venezuelan ambassador to the UN stated clearly, everyone knows that

Guatemala has no agenda of its own. It’s just a pawn of the US. Still, the US has gone so far as to threaten Chile, which just bought a bunch of US F-16 fighter planes, that it would withhold training of Chilean pilots to fly them if Chile didn’t support Guatemala’s candidacy. The US denies pressuring its Latin American “allies”, which means that they are, of course, doing it.

With their typical, unfailing genius for failure, the Bushits have likely picked another fight they cannot win. But they are desperate to keep Venezuela, i.e., Hugo Chavez, off the UN Security Council, especially at a time when the US is trying to manipulate the UN to support its aggression against Iran. As a rotating member of the Security Council, Venezuela would not have a veto, but it could raise a lot of hell and cause the US major problems.

The current breakdown of votes shows Venezuela in the lead, but without the consensus that is usually required. Columbia and most Central American countries are supporting Guatemala. Peru may also. Chile is not saying, although the Chilean government is reported to have “signaled” support for Venezuela. On the other hand, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay, Cuba and most of the Caribbean countries are supporting Venezuela. Notably, Belize, which has a long-running border dispute with Guatemala, is supporting Venezeula too. Mexico’s vote hinges on the outcome of the July 2 presidential election. Lopez Obrador would support Venezuela and Calderon would support Guatemala. If there is not a consensus by October, the matter will be referred to the UN General Assembly, where the chances of the US winning with Guatemala would be still worse. So, most likely, the last couple of years of the Bush regime will feature Hugo Chavez’s perspective stated loudly and clearly on the UN Security Council, just at a time when the US is pushing for sanctions or worse against Iran. For one month of that period, Venezuela would be president of the Council and able to set the agenda.

Maybe the Bushits actually want Venezuela to win and are only putting up opposition for domestic consumption. Venezuela on the Security Council would give the Bushits some cover when they ultimately ignore the UN and act against Iran unilaterally. So what that such an act would lead to even greater isolation and condemnation of the US by the rest of the world? These guys are not known for long-range planning or concern about the opinions of others.

David Hamilton

The article below is from upsidedownworld.org. It explains why Guatemala hasn’t got a chance.

The Race for Latin America’s Security Council Seat
Written by Cyril Mychalejko
Sunday, 25 June 2006

The United States has launched a diplomatic offensive to block Venezuela’s bid for a two-year rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council. The U.S. instead is lobbying heavily for Guatemala to take over the seat being vacated by Argentina.

U.S. officials claim that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is a threat to democracy in Latin America and that his presence within Security Council circles would be counter-productive for the world body.

“It should come as no surprise that we believe Venezuela would not contribute to the effective operation of the Security Council, as demonstrated by its often disruptive and irresponsible behavior in multilateral forums,” said State Department spokesman Eric Watnick.

In contrast, Washington believes Guatemala is a “viable candidate.” State Department officials cite Guatemala’s previous work with the U.N. and its contribution of peacekeepers as evidence of its qualifications.

Guatemala’s Qualifications

U.N. High Commisioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour after an official visit to Guatemala last month expressed concern that democratic reforms were “progressing slowly.” Guatemala is 10 years removed from the 1996 Peace Accords which ended a 36-year civil war that left over 200,000 people (mostly indigenous) either dead or disappeared.

“Nothing can exemplify this better than the delay encountered by victims of the armed conflict in obtaining justice and reparation,” said Arbour. “Where impunity is the rule for past violations, it should come as no surprise that it also prevails for current crimes.” Arbour cited a list of problems plaguing the country, which include: ongoing threats and violence directed at human rights workers, the government’s meager investment in social services (the lowest in the region), the continued discrimination and marginalization of indigenous peoples, as well as the continued rise of homicides. Also, after 10 years, Guatemala has failed to adopt and enforce the Peace Accord on the Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The U.N. is not alone in its criticism and concern about the Guatemalan government’s failure to address discrimination, violence and impunity. Amnesty International issued a report in April 2006 that examines Guatemala’s enforcement of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Inhuman Treatment and Punishment.

“The vast majority of human rights violations committed in the present remain unpunished with the vast majority [of those violations] lacking thorough investigation,” Amnesty’s report stated.

Concerned about a spike in the murder rate of Guatemalan women, the Amnesty report focuses on violence against women and the government’s failure to bring perpetrators to justice. Sexual violence and mutilation are associated with a large percentage of the killings. Yet, despite the rapid rise of these gruesome crimes, there has been no increase in prosecutions by the state. Amnesty cites a report that reveals that “between 2001 and 2005, only five of the 1,897 cases had been resolved in the courts.”

Amnesty attributes this failure to gender discrimination and reports that prosecutors and police often blame victims and falsely accuse them of being prostitutes or gang members. The government’s inability to expeditiously prosecute these murders and the subsequent suffering this inflicts on victims’ families amounts to violations of the U.N. convention. In addition, Amnesty raised concerns about Guatemalan government policies of home demolition and violent eviction of campesinos (subsistence farmers) as a method of settling land disputes. Guatemala counted 1,052 disputed land claims as of December 2005. In the small Central American country, less than two percent of the population own 60 percent of the land. This disparity in land ownership resulted from land tenure policies carried out by successive dictatorships during the county’s civil war and led to widespread internal displacements of Guatemala’s rural poor. The International Displacement Monitoring Centre, an international body monitoring conflict-induced internal displacement, estimates that as many as one million people have been displaced in Guatemala, most of them indigenous.

Under current President Oscar Berger, a former businessman and wealthy landowner, forced evictions marked by violence, house burnings and demolitions have been used to settle these disputes. Not only does this amount to violations of the Convention against torture, it also fails to meet obligations under the Peace Accords which guaranteed land redistribution and resettlement for poor people uprooted during the war. In addition, human rights and indigenous activists have suffered threats, attacks and executions.

Berger’s propensity for violence-as-conflict-resolution was exposed again in January 2005 over a disputed World Bank mining project. Indigenous protestors raised a blockade to prevent Canada’s Glamis Gold from bringing in its mining equipment. Berger sent in the military and police, who opened fire on protestors, killing one person and injuring dozens of others. Like the U.N.’s commissioner for human rights pointed out, since impunity rules for crimes in the past, the current situation in Guatemala should come as no surprise.

According to Amnesty International, “Those responsible for past human rights violations, including policies of systematic torture, forced ‘disappearances’ and genocide, remain at large, unaccountable for their actions, in some cases enjoying considerable political influence in present day Guatemala.”

One notable example is Efrain Rios Montt, the military man who became president in 1982 after launching a military coup. Upon winning power, Montt, with a nod from Washington, launched a scorched-earth campaign against the Mayan population that killed and “disappeared” thousands of indigenous. In recent years, Montt has served as head of Congress and ran for president in 2004 before losing to Berger.

Rhetoric and Reality

U.S. concerns over Venezuela’s bid has nothing to do with democracy and respect for international law. What’s at stake is Washington’s waning influence over the region, its ability to call the shots globally and the U.N.’s institutional acquiescence in maintaining a global hierarchy marked by violence, discrimination and impunity –much like in Guatemala. Recent elections throughout the region have left many leaders in Washington (both corporate and political) reminiscing for the good old days when Latin American heads of state could be counted on to push through neoliberal reforms and support U.S. foreign policy, even if it meant these same leaders had to use violence and oppression. Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and the aforementioned Montt serve as good examples.

Leaders representing the new Latin America, such as Venezuela’s Chavez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and, to a lesser degree, Argentina’s Nestor Kirchner and Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva are a threat to the current global hierarchy led by Washington and supported by the U.N. These countries, along with Uruguay and Paraguay, are expected to support Venezuela’s bid for the open seat. The U.S is using diplomatic pressure to urge Chile, seen as a critical vote, to push Guatemala through. But if the 2005 OAS election, where the U.S.-backed candidate lost to Chile’s José Miguel Insulza, is any indicator, Washington may be in for another disappointment and dose of reality.

And even though the Security Council doesn’t rubber-stamp everything coming out of Washington, like the war in Iraq, the war still happened (in violation of the U.N. Charter), over 100,000 Iraqis are dead and the U.S. government has yet to be held accountable. Other U.N. crimes that come to mind are the sanctions that left over 500,000 Iraqi children dead, and more recently its support of the coup in Haiti and the use of death squads in that country.

Venezuela’s election to the Security Council could very well challenge this inhumane system and global hierarchy that smaller nations have fallen prey to. It is feared that the Venezuelan government’s outspoken and harsh criticisms directed toward U.S. foreign policy could prove to be contagious. Chavez has even called out the U.N. for its institutional failures.

In September 2005 he spoke before the U.N. and demanded a “re-founding” of the organization. Part of the institutional changes he suggested were terminating the veto vote and expanding the Security Council to include newly developed and developing nations. This is why Washington objects to Venezuela’s candidacy.

Cyril Mychalejko is the assistant editor of www.UpsideDownWorld.org and is currently based in Ecuador.

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