8452nd Security Council Meeting: Situation in Venezuela

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26-Jan-2019 04:37:42
With Venezuela buckling under severe shortages, Security Council emergency session calls for political solution to end crisis, as divisions emerge over path forward at 8452nd meeting.

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Following widespread protests and political upheaval in Venezuela — a country plagued by food shortages, deteriorating basic services and an inflation rate of more than 1 million per cent — all actors must exercise maximum restraint and avoid any further escalation, said a senior United Nations official during an emergency meeting of the Security Council today.

“The protracted conflict in [Venezuela] has had a grave impact on the population, with high levels of political polarization, growing humanitarian needs and serious human rights concerns,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs. Calling for a political solution with the interests of the population at its heart, she said nearly all 30 million Venezuelans are affected by the crisis and about 3 million are now living abroad, with many having fled to neighbouring countries. Recalling that the National Assembly leader, Juan Guaidó, declared himself President amid widespread protests this week, she cited reports that protesters were injured and killed, and called for a full investigation into the possible excessive use of force. All parties must respect human rights and the rule of law, she stressed, warning that the situation could spiral out of control.

Ms. DiCarlo delivered her briefing after Council members voted to consider the situation in Venezuela, with nine delegations voting in favour of the meeting (Belgium, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Kuwait, Peru, Poland, United Kingdom, United States), four voting against (China, Equatorial Guinea, Russian Federation, South Africa) and two abstaining (Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia). Prior to the vote, the Secretary of State of the United States, Michael Pompeo, underscored the need for the Council to support the Venezuelan people by taking up the issue. The Russian Federation’s delegate countered that the Council has no role to play in a domestic matter that poses no threat to international peace and security.

As delegates took the floor to voice their views, Mr. Pompeo said scenes of misery are now the norm in Venezuela, thanks to a failed socialist experiment. “Former President [Nicolás] Maduro bears full responsibility for this tragedy,” he said. Nine out of ten Venezuelans now live in poverty, three out of four hospitals have been abandoned and Mr. Maduro’s prisons are full of political prisoners. Calling on Member States to support the Venezuelan people by recognizing Mr. Guaidó’s interim Government, he said now is time for every nation to “pick a side”.

Joining in those calls, Peru’s representative said that, as a result of the repressive and anti-democratic policies of the Maduro regime, and the subsequent prospects for violence, the reality of the Venezuelan people is one of massive exodus. Peru alone has received some 700,000 Venezuelan refugees and migrants to date, he said, citing the disproportionate use of violence, political persecution and crackdowns against the opposition. Expressing support for a democratic transition under Mr. Guaidó’s leadership, he called for a new round of elections to be held under international observation.

“Mr. Maduro must understand that this is his last opportunity and he must take it,” France’s delegate declared. Emphasizing that it is entirely legitimate that the Council considers this topic today, as the crisis is spilling into neighbouring countries, she said that, if elections are not held in eight days, France is ready, along with the European Union, to recognize Mr. Guaidó as interim President.

Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, rejected United States attempts to interfere in his country’s affairs, as well as Mr. Guaidó’s presidential self-proclamation as illegal. Listing some of Washington, D.C.’s numerous aggressions and interventions across Latin America, he said the Government of President Donald Trump is trying to build a physical wall on its border with Mexico, while also erecting an “ideological wall” and resurrecting Cold War strategies aimed at bringing misery to Latin America. So far, its unilateral sanctions have cost Venezuela $23 billion, causing economic turmoil. However, Caracas will find its own way forward without interference. “No Power […] can dictate to my country its destiny or its future.”

Bolivia’s delegate was among those speakers expressing solidarity with the Government of President Maduro. Emphasizing that Venezuela in no way represents a threat, he said the United States’ attempt to manipulate the situation only weakens the spirit of multilateralism and violates the will of the people. “If we are going to talk honestly about the humanitarian situation in Venezuela, let’s talk about who is responsible for the sanctions,” he said. Those seeking regime change are only interested in gaining control over Venezuela’s oil reserves.

Similarly, Cuba’s representative stressed that the United States is dusting off its old imperialist policies in Latin America. Warning that a single spark could set off that “tinder box”, leading to an uncontrollable fire, she said the main threat to the region is bullying by the United States and its allies. She condemned in the strongest terms attempts to install a lackey Government, cautioning that history will judge those who push for a coup d’état.

The Russian Federation’s representative said today’s meeting was called with a single purpose — to continue destabilizing the situation in Venezuela through external influence. Voicing regret that the Council is being drawn into such attempts, he declared: “Regime change is a favourite geopolitical game of the United States.” Warning that Mr. Guaidó’s presidential self-proclamation artificially created a parallel Government, which is now pushing society “to the edge of a bloodbath”, he asked Mr. Pompeo whether his country is prepared to take up arms against another nation based on bogus allegations. Addressing his colleagues from Latin America, he warned that any one of them could become the next target of United States intervention.

While Council members were divided on the issue, several speakers struck a balanced tone, calling both for international attention to Venezuela’s grave humanitarian situation and full respect for the United Nations Charter principles of sovereignty and non-intervention in State affairs. In that vein, the representative of Barbados, on behalf of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), convened on 24 January, expressed concern about the plight of the Venezuelan people amid increasing volatility. The region must remain a zone of peace, she stressed, urging external forces to refrain from destabilizing actions and on the parties to “step back from the brink”.

Also speaking were senior officials and representatives of the United Kingdom, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Germany, Poland, China, Indonesia, Belgium, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Canada, Paraguay, Suriname, Argentina, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Honduras, Antigua and Barbuda and Panama.

The meeting began at 9:16 a.m. and ended at 1:52 p.m.

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