Venezuela Wins UN Security Council Seat
Venezuela secured a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council in the first round of voting yesterday, earning 181 votes in support of its candidacy—52 over the 129 vote threshold it needed to clinch the seat. The win was trumpeted by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as a sign that the broader international community holds the country—which is caught in dire economic straits and has been roundly criticized for its record on human rights—in high esteem. “We are a country beloved and admired by the whole world,” Maduro is reported to have said upon receiving news of the ballot results.
Venezuela’s last bid for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council, in 2006, was strongly opposed by the U.S. and ultimately foundered. This year the country ran unopposed to fill the one available seat on the council from Latin America, and received unanimous support from a caucus of 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations. Significantly, the Obama administration did not mount a diplomatic campaign against the country’s bid, despite calls by U.S. lawmakers for such an effort.
However, Venezuela’s win has provoked some criticism. After the vote, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said in a statement that “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.” According to the UN Director of Human Rights Watch, Philippe Bolopion, “The security council’s new membership could prove more problematic on human rights issues, with several generally rights-friendly countries leaving and others coming on board with poor voting records.” Venezuela’s election to the Security Council comes just weeks after the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions called on the country to release opposition political leader, Leopoldo López.
This week’s likely top stories: Venezuela is expected to win a seat on the UN Security Council; Brazilian President Rousseff and Marina Silva are tied in a new poll; U.S. deportations are at their lowest level since 2007; Santander’s new chairwoman will maintain the bank's current strategy; Ecuadorian President Correa asks supporters to mobilize against anticipated protests.
Venezuela likely to earn seat on UN Security Council despite critics: As the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly opens in New York this week, Venezuela is poised to gain a long-awaited seat on the UN Security Council. At a meeting in July, Venezuela obtained unanimous regional support for its candidacy to represent Latin America. While the country still has to gain a two-thirds majority in a secret vote among all 193 UN member countries, there is no rival candidate in the region and Venezuela is likely to win. Critics of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro are concerned about his impact on the Security Council, given the current human rights allegations against his administration. When Venezuela tried to gain a seat in 2006, the U.S. successfully blocked the attempt, claiming that Venezuela would be a “disruptive” influence. U.S. President Barack Obama will preside over a UN Security Council summit the week of September 22.
President Rousseff and Marina Silva tied in recent poll: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her chief political challenger, Marina Silva, are now statistically tied in the polls as Brazil’s October 5 presidential elections approach, according to a poll released Friday by the Instituto Brasileiro de Opinião Pública e Estatística (Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics—Ibope). The poll indicates that in a run-off vote, Silva would receive 43 percent of the vote while Rousseff would take 42 percent—a much closer race than the previous nine-point gap that put Silva in the lead. In the likely event that no single candidate wins a majority of votes on October 5, a run-off election will take place on October 26.
U.S. Deportations at lowest level since 2007: U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials reported that ICE deported 258,608 immigrants between October 1, 2013 and July 28, 2014—the lowest level reported for that 10-month period since 2007, and the greatest decline in deportations since President Barack Obama has been in office. Last year, 320,167 people were deported from the United States during the same period. More than 2 million immigrants have been deported during the Obama administration, but a White House spokesman said that the president’s decision to shift resources to the border to deal with an influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America may be one reason for the recent decline in deportations.
Santander’s new chairwoman says bank will stick to strategy: After the death of former Santander chairman Emilio Botín, newly-appointed chairwoman Ana Botín said on Monday that she would continue her late father’s strategy to increase international diversification and maintain the bank’s generous dividend policy with shareholders. On Monday, shareholders also agreed to buy 25 percent of the bank’s Brazilian unit, Santander Brasil, for $6 billion. The bank has major operations in ten countries, including Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, and reported a 22 percent increase in profits in the first half of 2014.
Correa calls on supporters for impending protests: Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa on Saturday asked supporters to rally against expected workers’ protests against his government this coming week. Ecuadorian workers’ organizations are planning a Jornada Nacional de Movilización (National Mobilization) on Wednesday to mobilize for labor rights and to call for reforms to the country’s penal code, water policies, and education system, among other concerns. “If there are 3,000 of them on Wednesday, there will be 30,000 of us,” Correa said.
The United Nations announced yesterday that it is investigating two cases of sexual exploitation of children allegedly committed by UN police personnel in Haiti. One case involves the UN Police (UNPOL) in Port-au-Prince, while the other implicates one or more members of the Formed Police Unit (FPU) in the northern city of Gonaives.
UN Spokesperson Martin Nesirky said that the Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) alerted UN headquarters of the allegations last week. “The United Nations is outraged by these allegations and takes its responsibility to deal with them extremely seriously,” said Nesirky in a statement. The UN has not disclosed the nationalities of the police officers in question, but confirmed that they have been removed from duty while under investigation.
Since peacekeepers first arrived in Haiti 2004 to restore order following the ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the UN has had a sometimes tense relationship with the local population. Last September, five Uruguayan peacekeepers were recalled after being accused of sexually abusing a Haitian man at a UN base, while recording the incident on a cellphone. Four months earlier, an independent UN panel concluded that the Cholera epidemic that infected 344,000 Haitians and killed over 6,000 likely originated from poor sanitation by Nepalese peacekeepers stationed in Mirebalais. Both incidents resulted in protests and clashes between protesters and UN and Haitian police.
In an effort to ebb anti-UN sentiment in Haiti, the Security Council decided last October to withdraw 3,000 troops from the Caribbean nation, returning the force to pre-earthquake levels. Still, President Michel Martelly maintains that UN troops are a necessary presence in Haiti until the country’s police force—or a new military—can ensure security.
Colombia will serve as a rotating member of the United Nations Security Council this coming January for a two-year term following approval of its uncontested bid to represent Latin America and the Caribbean alongside Brazil. This marks Colombia’s sixth time serving as a non-permanent rotating member of the Council, replacing Mexico as the second representative of the region. Other countries elected to serve as non-permanent rotating members include South Africa, Germany, Portugal, and for the first time, India.
Colombia’s bid for a seat on the Council was made official by President Juan Manuel Santos on September 24 during his address at the UN General Assembly, voicing Colombia’s commitment to assist UN efforts in maintaining international peace and security. However, Colombia’s bid was met with some opposition from neighboring Bolivia over concerns that Colombia’s presence on the Security Council would serve to expand the influence of the United States on the Council. Despite the concern, Colombia’s appointment was approved by 186 member countries.
In addition to the five newly elected countries, the Security Council’s other non-permanent members—Brazil, Nigeria, Lebanon, Gabon, and Bosnia-Herzegovina—will join the five permanent members (China, France, Russia, Britain, and the United States) for the 2011 term.
The United States today dismissed a proposed agreement between Brazil, Turkey and Iran that would allow Iran to swap enriched uranium for reactor fuel. The deal was brokered by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during his trip in May to Tehran. The U.S., however, appears to think that the Brazilian agreement would leave Iran with enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.
Brazil’s role in the nuclear negotiations is part of a broader effort to increase its profile on the international stage, but the U.S. has downplayed its diplomatic efforts on Iran. Prior to Mr. Lula da Silva’s May trip to Tehran, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton repeatedly said that only UN Security Council action would be effective in curbing Iran’s ambitions. When the Brazilian president succeeded in brokering the deal, Washington declined to recognize it as an important breakthrough.
The UN Security Council is soon expected to approve a fourth round of economic sanctions against Iran, which Brazil has opposed. U.S. officials met with the Brazilian deputy foreign minister on Monday in an effort to convince Brazil to abstain from voting against the sanctions at today’s Security Council meeting, rather than cast a “no” vote. Turkey, which joined Brazil in the negotiations with Iran, and Lebanon are also expected to oppose the newest round of sanctions.
Mexico warned Israel of possible United Nations Security Council action if they continued to block humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza only hours after assuming the UN body’s rotating presidency at midnight on June 1. In a carefully crafted statement released yesterday, the council president, Ambassador Claude Heller of Mexico, condemned Israel’s actions against the Turkish aid flotilla, which resulted in the deaths of at least nine civilians and dozens other injured, and called for an impartial investigation of the operation. The council also requested the immediate release of ships and civilians held by Israel.
More aid ships are expected to attempt to reach Gaza today while Israel remains steadfast to keep ships from crossing their blockade. Israel’s Defense Vice Minister Matan Vilnaí declared that the blockade would stand despite widespread condemnation of their actions on May 31. The aid ships have been docked in Ashdod Port in southern Israel and Israeli authorities began transporting the ship’s humanitarian cargo to Gaza as of Tuesday afternoon.
Mexico assumed the presidency of the 15-nation Security Council as it held closed door meetings to discuss a response to the Israeli action. The previous Council presidency was held by Lebanon, which called the meeting on May 31, just before the expiration of their month-long presidency term. The UN Security Council is charged with maintaining international peace and security in the world at large and this month marks Mexico’s second term as president since rotating into the council for its two-year term. Mexico last held the presidency of the Security Council in April 2009.