Guatemala and Venezuela have persistently fallen short of the two thirds majority needed to secure GRULAC’s (the UN’s Latin American and Caribbean caucus) seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC) after more than two days of voting and 22 grueling rounds of balloting. Now, into the third day of voting, the results read: Guatemala 110, Venezuela 77. Voting was suspended on Tuesday until today, Thursday October 19, giving Venezuela and Guatemala’s ringmaster and vociferous supporter – the United States –time to lobby other governments into supporting their respective camps, or to consider a compromised third nominee.
The Rise of a Third Candidate
Considering that Guatemala’s and Venezuela’s aspirations might continue to falter, it would be prudent for UN delegations, which may be looking around for that third-country candidate to arise, to consider the Caribbean nation of St. Lucia. St. Lucia is an English-speaking country whose population of nearly 170,000 enjoys high literacy standards, relatively low levels of corruption, a transparent banking system, a worthy environmental reputation, and a good record on combating drug trafficking. It is in every way a “model democracy,” and unlike Guatemala, it has no ghosts in the closet. It is also one of ten Caribbean nation states which have never been elected to the UNSC, as Guyana, Cuba, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago have been the region’s only nations that have been honored with this post.
St. Lucia has also demonstrated sensitivity to issues of stability and mutual respect for national sovereignty. Its highly regarded Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony is looked upon as one of the Caribbean area’s most respected figures. Unlike Guatemala it has an exemplary human rights record and has been very responsive to international agreements. In the mid 1990s, St. Lucia actively backed UNSC Resolution 940 to restore democracy in Haiti after three years of brutal control by a military junta, thus supporting former President Aristide’s return to power peacefully. Prime Minister Anthony stood behind President Aristide even after he was forced to flee Haiti in 2004, insisting that the leader continued to be the lawful president of Haiti. After that, St. Lucia, along with most of the CARICOM nations, refused to recognize the U.S.-backed interim government of Gérard Latortue. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Anthony’s distaste towards Washington’s de facto ousting of President Aristide has not challenged his commitment to the poverty-wrecked citizens of neighboring Haiti. Since Aristide’s last forced departure, Anthony has repeatedly headed delegations seeking to integrate Haiti into the CARICOM common market and also has participated in the monitoring of Haitian elections. As such, St. Lucia deserves to receive considerable appreciation for its consistent endeavors to favor cooperation and the use of peaceful means over unilateral action and the resort to force, as validated by its regional leadership and unqualified neutrality.
Despite its disagreement with Washington on the handling of Haiti, St. Lucia has proven to be a strong ally of Washington’s legitimate aspirations, signing numerous bilateral treaties – including a Maritime Law Enforcement Agreement and an Extradition Treaty – in a joint effort to thwart illegal drug trafficking to the U.S. and Europe. The island is also a regional leader in encouraging foreign direct investment (FDI), boasting one of the most diversified manufacturing sectors in the region and a promising tourism industry. Not surprisingly, the majority of tourists visiting the paradisiacal island are U.S. citizens, suggesting that good diplomatic relationships between the two are highly beneficial for both parties.
If Venezuela’s candidacy continues to falter, and the UNSC seat remains outside of Caracas’ and Guatemala City’s grasp, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez might like to see a member of CARICOM, a bloc of Caribbean nations friendly to Caracas, obtain the Council’s non-permanent seat. Venezuela’s relationship with St. Lucia has been entirely close and constructive as the small nation is one of the 13 Caribbean nations that signed Venezuela’s Petrocaribe initiative, in which state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) will supply oil with an extraordinarily low one percent interest rate in an effort to relieve poorer nations from high energy costs, while servicing the subsidized costs of petroleum imports.
In addition, Caracas would likely support St. Lucia’s bid because it refused to join President Bush’s “coalition of the willing,” choosing not to support the invasion of Iraq, an action viewed by President Hugo Chávez’s government as U.S. imperialism at its apogee.
Viability of St. Lucia’s Candidacy
Almost all of the other “appropriate” Latin American countries are disqualified for one reason or another, transforming St. Lucia into a model candidate for the UNSC seat. Since Guatemala and Venezuela would have something approaching a de facto veto over who would replace it in the race, with geographical proximity being a key determining factor, Caracas would find the nearby island with which it has always had cordial relations and a most suitable neighbor, to provide an ear for its voice. Guatemala, on the other hand, might be less inclined to favor St. Lucia’s candidacy due to Prime Minister Anthony’s recent statement which called for “independent” voices which will not “take instructions from one or other countries” to obtain a seat on the Council; referring to Washington’s takeover of Guatemala’s scenario to obtain the UNSC seat. Nevertheless, considering that Washington and Guatemala might be interested in manifesting a good will gesture to the 15-member CARICOM group, they might be interested in pow-wowing with the small but worthy island.
Given these realities, St. Lucia could be the most appropriate candidate to end the fierce politicking now taking place between the U.S. and Venezuela, and its name might be very well tossed into the race in the next round of voting since neither Venezuela nor the U.S. have much to gain by having this process being drawn out any longer.