By Pedro G. Cavallero (for Safe Democracy)

Pedro G. Cavallero explains the current dilemma of the United Nations in electing the next country to replace Argentina as a temporary member of the Security Council. Venezuela and Guatemala are the leading contenders for the position, and in Cavallero‘s opinion, choosing Venezuela would be a very dangerous mistake for the UN. With Hugo Chavez as President, the country has caused considerable damage to Latin American politics, acting erratically, creating tensions, and associating itself with some of the worst dictatorships. The international community must do all that it can to ensure that Venezuela not be allowed to replace Argentina on the Security Council.

Pedro German Cavallero is a policy analyst based in Washington DC. He holds a master degree in Comparative Law and comments regularly on U.S. foreign policy and inter-American affairs.

IN OCTOBER, THE U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY WILL VOTE on the replacement of Argentina in the Security Council as a non-permanent member. The next country elected would serve a term of two years, along with five permanent and nine rotating members, as the Council takes on security issues critical to the entire world. There are two principal Latin American nations vying for the position: Guatemala and Venezuela.

If the decision were up to Argentina, Venezuela would have already begun. President Nestor Kirchner expressed his belief that Venezuela is one of his country’s key strategic allies, and in recent months Argentinean diplomacy has mobilized regional support in favor of Venezuela. And as the Argentineans form closer ties with their South American neighbors, the rift between the United States and Argentina is growing.

Other countries have also begun to break with America in recent months. Energy-rich Bolivia allied itself closely with Chavez following its decision to nationalize its resources, and Brazil and Uruguay have pledged Venezuela their support. The vote in October may very well redefine Latin American loyalties, depending on who wins.

Guatemala has earned significant backing by the United States, Colombia, and especially Peru. President Alan Garcia experienced first hand the meddlesomeness of Chavez’s government in his country’s elections, and is therefore eager to side with Guatemala.

Chile, meanwhile, has not defined its position publicly. Consensus has been hard to reach within Chilean government where the Socialists support Venezuela, and the Christian Democrats back Guatemala. During her first official visit to Washington, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet refused to comment on Chile’s position, and dismissed media probing on the intense American lobby in her country to support Guatemala.

Why is it that Venezuela’s candidacy to the U.N. Security Council is being so hotly debated, and is viewed by many as unacceptable?

Since coming to power in 1998, Hugo Chavez’s behavior in international politics has been alarmingly erratic. Through nonstop media pounding, Chavez has aggravated many of the problems plaguing Latin American democracy. He has sent misleading messages throughout Latin America, in which he has praised Castro’s one-party regime, contributed to the long-standing Chilean-Bolivian dispute over access to the Pacific, and worsened Colombia’s internal armed conflict.

In Peru, Chavez weighed in heavily on the Presidential elections by supporting the populist leader Ollanta Humala, despite the disapproval of President Alejandro Toledo, Alan Garcia, and even Humala himself. His unsolicited intervention greatly contributed to the deterioration of Peruvian-Venezuelan relations. Chavez has also stirred up a great deal of problems in Bolivia. By encouraging Evo Morales to take more combative stances against foreign energy companies operating within his country, he has created trouble with Brazil and Spain.

Chavez has also rampantly pursued anti-American policies, thus inflaming hemispheric tensions. At the 2005 Summit in Mar del Plata, Argentina, for example, Chavez derailed discussions on free trade, hindering progress, and further aggravating the economic disparity of South America.

Beyond the Americas, Venezuelan diplomacy has reached out to some of the world’s most repressive and tyrannical regimes. In 2004, Hugo Chavez received a human rights award from Libyan leader Muamar Gadafi, himself a pariah in the international community. And during a visit to Iran, he commended the Iranian government on its quest for nuclear weapons, and deemed the country a brother in the grand world revolution.

Voting for Venezuela to join the Security Council while Hugo Chavez is at its head would provide an international stage for a country that advances a contentious and erratic foreign policy.

Venezuela thrives on controversy and has proven detrimental to its neighbors. This is hardly the record of a country worthy of becoming a responsible world player.

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