Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The "Devil" Gives Hugo A Lesson In Fixing An Election

New York Times - UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 17 — Venezuela’s campaign to gain Latin America’s open seat on the Security Council next year lagged Tuesday for a second straight day, but Guatemala, the persistent leader after 22 ballots, was unable to win enough votes to secure the position.

The General Assembly recessed Tuesday night for 24 hours to ponder a way out of the deadlock, with diplomats suggesting that it might be time for the Latin American group to switch to a compromise candidate.

But neither country was prepared to step aside.

“We still have a considerable lead over our competitor, and under normal circumstances our competitor would stand down graciously,” said Gert Rosenthal, the foreign minister of Guatemala, “but for reasons well known, he’s not willing to do that.”

Francisco Arias Cárdenas, Venezuela’s ambassador, said, “We have had to fight a very uneven battle, with constant false accusations made against us, and we have kept up the fight until now and we will continue the fight.”

The setback was particularly stinging for Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chávez, has made the contest a centerpiece of his continuing campaign against Washington, financing it liberally with oil proceeds, promoting it with personal appearances around the world and frequently predicting that Venezuela would prevail.

In keeping with that, Mr. Arias Cárdenas has repeatedly said that this was not an argument between “brother” Latin nations, but an effort to liberate the United Nations from United States’ “imposition.”

Mr. Rosenthal complained: “Venezuela clearly is not doing well, but they want to bring us down with them as the proxy for the United States. It is very unfair to us. Washington did not run our campaign. We did all the work, and we have a majority of the votes.”

Mr. Arias Cárdenas said his country was not being “stubborn” but was sacrificing itself to represent poor and weak countries against the “blackmail” of the United States.

He held up the front page of El País, the Spanish daily, which showed a picture of John R. Bolton, the American ambassador, leaning over and consulting with Mr. Rosenthal.

“This is the pressure we are fighting,” he said. “Why doesn’t Bolton come to this microphone and declare that the United States will remove the pressure, will withdraw the money, and then countries will have the liberty to vote their conscience.”

In response, Mr. Bolton said: “Look, we have made our position clear in a very low key way. It is motivated by our concern for Venezuela’s behavior, and that’s another example of it.”

Asked about the photo with Mr. Bolton, Mr. Rosenthal said: “I don’t think there is anything conspiratorial about it. Yesterday, I must have been faced with 100 ambassadors, and he was one of them.”

The two countries are competing for a two-year term in the seat being vacated by Argentina, and to win it, one of them must reach 125 votes, which is two-thirds of those voting. Guatemala had held to an average of 104 and Venezuela 77.

“It’s true that the positions right now seem to be stuck in the same place,” Mr. Rosenthal said. “The bottom line is that we still are not prepared to step down, given the lead we have, and Thursday we can have another go at it.”

Mr. Bolton said the United States normally steered clear of contests at the United Nations involving regional groups but had become involved in this one out of concern that Venezuela might become a disruptive presence on the Security Council.

“You can draw one conclusion from the results,” Mr. Bolton said with evident satisfaction, “that is, that Venezuela is not going to win.”