Last week, 181 member states of the United Nations voted yea in Venezuela’s favor, allowing Caracas to take one of the two non-permanent seats on the Security Council reserved for Latin America.
Tongues clucked and fingers wagged. In the run-up to the vote, editorial boards, columnists and members of congress urged Washington to whip together the sixty-five nations needed to block Venezuela’s two-year term. But in the end, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, could only secure only eleven opposing votes. Venezuela was Latin America’s unanimous choice to replace outgoing Argentina, joining Chile, which has one more year left. Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted his concern: “Shameful that Latin America 1) proposes abusive #Venezuela for UN Security Council, and 2) no one else, so no choice.”
Power reacted to the vote by collectively scolding the Latin American caucus:
The UN Charter makes clear that candidates for membership on the Security Council should be contributors to the maintenance of international peace and security and support the other purposes of the UN, including promoting universal respect for human rights. Regional groups have a responsibility to put forward candidates that satisfy these criteria.
Nearly exactly one hundred years ago, Woodrow Wilson said he was “going to teach the South American republics to elect good men.” We’re still trying.
Power then went on to say, “Venezuela’s conduct at the UN has run counter to the spirit of the UN Charter and its violations of human rights at home are at odds with the Charter’s letter.”
The “conduct” here referred to is Caracas’s recent turn on the UN’s Human Rights Council, where it consistently opposed US-supported resolutions and supported resolutions the US opposed.
For instance, Venezuela joined with twenty-seven other members to pass a resolution calling on countries to ensure that armed drones in counter-terrorism and military campaigns operate “in according with international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law.” Sounds unobjectionable, right? Not to Washington. Its representative voted with the minority. The United States “said that it did not believe that the examination of specific weapon systems fell under the mandate of the Council.” Kenneth Roth didn’t think this worth a tweet. Venezuela also tended to vote against any resolution that might be deemed a stalking horse for US-led interventions, siding, for instance, with China, Cuba and Russia against condemning human rights violations in Syria.