Chávez bid for security council seat falters
Published by the Guardian, 10/17/06
http://www.guardian.co.uk/international ... 67,00.html
Ed Pilkington in New York and Rory Carroll in Caracas
An attempt by Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, to challenge the hegemony of the US and Britain within the UN by having his country join the security council was hanging in the balance last night after a series of votes failed to decide an outright winner.
Mr Chávez had invested millions of dollars in a year-long campaign to get Venezuela elected to one of 10 non-permanent seats.
In the first 10 rounds of ballots conducted by the 192-member general assembly, Venezuela initially trailed behind its US-backed rival Guatemala by 76 votes to 109, then pulled even during the sixth round but ended the day with 77 to 110, similar to the first ballot eight hours earlier. The vote will continue today with both countries seeking the two-thirds majority that would clinch the contest, although a compromise candidate might emerge. In 1979 the assembly conducted 155 rounds in a race between Colombia and Cuba, with Mexico emerging as the compromise candidate.
The vote was one of two contested seats, with Nepal finishing ahead of Indonesia in the Asia region. Belgium, Italy and South Africa were elected unopposed in the European and African regions. The five new members will take their seats in January, replacing Japan, Tanzania, Argentina, Denmark and Greece, which finish their two-year terms at the end of the year.
Venezuela's forceful bid had alarmed US diplomats. Mr Chávez provoked outrage within the Bush administration when he likened the president to the devil at last month's general assembly meeting, saying the American leader had left the "smell of sulphur" in the UN debating chamber.
Western diplomats feared Venezuela would use its seat to become a major irritant within the UN. Although it would not have had the veto reserved for the five permanent members including the US and Britain, it could have scuppered resolutions requiring unanimity among the wider 15-member council.
Mr Chávez visited dozens of countries in recent months to drum up support for the bid in what has been described as a billion dollar world tour of chequebook diplomacy. With state coffers overflowing in oil wealth, he pledged aid to allies and potential allies in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe. The spree ranged from modest but symbolic outlays to huge deals sometimes dwarfing US bilateral aid.
A $260m (£140m) pledge to repave a Jamaican highway made Washington's $42m annual aid to the Caribbean island seem paltry. Venezuela also promised $17m to upgrade airports on the islands of Antigua and Dominica, and $400m to Uruguay, including $20m to save a hospital and $5m to reopen a factory closed by a US company. Bolivia received about $140m from Venezuela in the form of donations, loans, scholarships and tractors. A Brazilian samba group received an undisclosed amount after winning first prize in the Rio de Janeiro carnival.
Last year Venezuela bought $3.6bn in bonds from Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia, smoothing a rocky patch for the governments, and donated $3m in food aid to Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger.
A review conducted by the Associated Press estimates that the pledges amounted to $1.1bn in the past year, about a quarter of what was pledged by the US.
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