Taking a Leadership Role: Venezuela Accorded a Seat on the U.N. Security Council, while Washington Suffers a Significant Setback in Prestige

By Larry Birns, Frederick B. Mills, and Ronn Pineo

With 181 out of 193 of the United Nations representatives voting yes on Thursday, October 16, the Venezuelan government has gained not only a seat on the U.N. Security Council, but an affirmation of a leadership role in the Americas. As a result, there are now two strong features of Venezuelan foreign policy that will likely have an intensified impact on the Council: Caracas’ ongoing commitment to construct a multi-polar world, and its anticipated presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement starting next year.

Although there have been some moments of dismay over the last fifteen years with Venezuela’s evolving foreign policy, overall the nation  has advanced to a position where it draws considerable respect among other Latin American nations. Acclaim for Venezuela’s international position already has stemmed from its strong support for efforts aimed at regional integration and the establishment of the region as a “zone of peace,” as well as for its long-time championing of the inclusion of Cuba at the Summit of the Americas. These positions have matured and have now attracted near universal support in recent years by a series of new Latin American regional bodies that have been formed, most notably CELAC (The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States or Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños) and UNASUR (The Union of South American Nations or Unión de Naciones Suramericanas).  Latin American nations came together to form these new bodies with the purpose of shaping a common hemispheric vision without interference from the United States.  Indeed, the U.S. and Canada are not even members of either CELAC or UNASUR, and may not choose to join. Meanwhile, Venezuela has been a key player and gained appreciation for its participation in the peace negotiations between the FARC guerrillas (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) and the government of Colombia.

Continuing the legacy of former president Hugo Chávez, Venezuela is a leading proponent of complementarity in trade relations between regional nations. This philosophy involves finding innovative ways of exchanging goods between Latin American nations based on responding to the most urgent and rational public needs of each country. A growing diversification of trade relationships has resulted, with numerous deals also being struck between Latin American nations and China, Russia, and the European Union, trade arrangements that completely bypass the State Department.  Venezuela has also played a key role in the creation of new Latin American financial institutions, such as the Banco del Sur (Bank of the South), as alternatives to the orthodoxies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The Obama administration refrained from open opposition to a Venezuelan seat on the Council until the vote had been taken and Washington had been humbled by the outcome. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and other hard-line US legislators, as well as the Washington Post and the New York Times, publicly showed their irrelevance by urging the administration to thwart a Venezuelan diplomatic victory. Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami ultra-conservative, argued that the administration of President Nicolas Maduro is bent on “undermining peace and security in the region.” The truth is that unlike the US, Venezuela has not backed golpista regimes in the region and is not involved in a serious conflict anywhere. Rather than being so strained Caracas is serving as an effective mediator in peace negotiations to help bring to an end the longest running war in the hemisphere, and does not have a military base in any other Latin American nation. On the other hand, the anti-Chavista lobby in Washington, and its friends on the editorial boards of the Washington Post and New York Times, seem content to uncritically repeat the claims of the Venezuelan opposition. No doubt the Bolivarian revolution faces serious and urgent economic challenges, persistent high crime, rogue elements within some of its police units, and still battles corruption within the state bureaucracy.  Still, these challenges should be set into the political context of a determined and violent ultra-right opposition, which is set on achieving extra-constitutional regime change. And there have been important gains under Chávez and now Maduro. Over the past fifteen years, the revolution has succeeded in lifting several million Venezuelans out of poverty, increased national control over the country’s natural resources, and supported the further development of organized expressions of popular power.

Progressive forces, including COHA, may not greet with satisfaction every Venezuelan domestic and foreign policy position, and will probably continue to take issue on a selective basis with various political and economic developments.  Nevertheless, a non-permanent Venezuelan seat on the United Nations Security Council is likely to provide a sorely needed rational voice for multi-polarity and an opportunity to broaden the debate over how to resolve international conflicts while promoting world peace and allowing for the respect of authentic national interest.

Larry Birns is COHA Director. Frederick B. Mills and Ronn Pineo are COHA Senior Research Fellows.

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution. Exclusive rights can be negotiated. For additional news and analysis on Latin America, please go to: LatinNews.com and Rights Action.

Institutional affiliation is for identification purposes only and all opinions expressed are the author’s own.

5 thoughts on “Taking a Leadership Role: Venezuela Accorded a Seat on the U.N. Security Council, while Washington Suffers a Significant Setback in Prestige

  • October 21, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Esteemed COHA,
    I truly appreciated the article, clearly shows that on the foreign affairs realm Venezuela is truly an example for the world. I am also very proud to see they earned their seat in a very prestigious organization. However I would like to take this opportunity to highlight something I learned in one of my courses last semester.
    I learnt that former Secretary General Kofi Annan began to understand that in our relative peaceful period in history, we have observed an increase in conflicts within countries. And that we must begin to understand human security above national security. In human security the idea of a proper standard of living is highlighted. As a Venezuelan myself, I am aware of the country’s history of severe inequality and elites dictating policy making. (Unfortunately a terrible residue from colonialism). I also understand that our new Revolutionary regime is a natural reaction to our elitist un equal background. Having said this, I cant agree with the way our current government is achieving this internal human security I was talking about before. By no means I am defending or taking the American stand on my political views, but I did not appreciate the way in which you mentioned the media “uncritically repeated the Venezuelan opposition claims.”

    We are an opposition for a reason. I consider myself a central leftist, and do believe in social policies for a more equal society. However and sadly I also know this can not be at the cost of our economy, our production of oil, and the fact we stopped producing a lot of goods that would provide many jobs in the past.
    On a more alarming note, is the issue of security. A rise in a crime and street violence is a direct indicator that something is not right. People are not making ends meet. I know some people, whose’s earnings simply don’t keep up with the inflation. The quickest way to provide food and shelter is therefore either to rob (suggested once by Chavez himself in national television), or fall into the drug market (which starts a whole array of problems itself.)
    My point here is regardless of Washington’s and Caracas’ ideological relations, I urge your organization to not be “uncritical” of the internal problems Venezuela is facing. Unfortunately because of poor leadership on behalf of its government.

  • October 21, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Venezuela’s approval vote last week by the United Nation’s General Assembly, to join the Security Council for two years, showcases obvious incoherencies, paradoxes, and other amnesia brought forward by this decision.

    The irony of Maduro’s statement of loyalty to the late Chavez is that Hugo Chávez probably inflicted more lasting damage on Venezuela’s political institutions, economy and people than any other president in the history of the nation. Even in death a vast world media negatively exploited the Chavez legacy and personal wealth, describing a systematically corrupt administration that squandered billions of dollars of Venezuelan revenues, much of it still unaccounted for.

    Gifts of oil to Cuba by Chavez, according to 2005 estimates, demonstrated Venezuela providing Cuba oil free of cost for a total “gift” of US$6 to 8 billion until 2020. This while, then and now under Maduro, the poor continue to live below the poverty line, in squalor and unsafe homes, with little food and rolling blackouts of electricity, among other critical needs.

  • October 21, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    It has to be admited that under thw present circumstances Venezuela does not deserve to be in the Security Council. The country is living under a 16 year dictatordhip, there are no political rights, and the institutions are in total dosarray.

  • October 22, 2014 at 10:18 am

    It seems that “birds of a feather will flock toguether”. Th eUN just voted to have a SPY within the UN to alert Hamas and Hezbolla.

  • October 22, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    While appreciating this article very much, as well, as I do respect the differenciated comment above, I want to urge you, dear Adriana Baez, please, keep basically united with your current government during this important process within your country by overcoming the colonial heritage which you mentioned, as well, as all those difficulties stemming from the attempts of subverting from abroad.
    Otherwise, there would be the danger that you are supporting those hardliners as Ros-Lehtinen.
    Those are profitting from the devision within your society, even within the left.
    As the ancient Romans said: “Divide et impera!”
    After all, here in Europe, we regard Latin American countries and their efforts for emancipation from US. paternalism, U.S. corporate groups and banksters as our “white hope”.


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