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Chavez's Theater of the Absurd By: Joseph Klein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, October 23, 2006

Venezuela is locked in a battle with Guatemala to take over a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, representing the Latin American region.  While neither country has been able to garner the necessary two-thirds majority from the General Assembly, Guatemala has soundly beaten Venezuela in virtually every round of voting to date.  The 35th round of voting ended on October 20th with 103 votes for Guatemala and 81 for Venezuela.  Further voting has been put off for several days.  As one reporter put it during a daily press briefing at UN headquarters, the process is morphing into the theater of the absurd.

Venezuela has already served four times on the Security Council, while Guatemala has never served.  It is time for Venezuela, the perennial loser in balloting this time around, to either remove itself voluntarily in favor of Guatemala or a consensus candidate, or to be forced to step aside.  According to the UN Charter, in electing a non-permanent member to the Security Council, the General Assembly is to give “due regard…in the first instance to the contribution of Members of the United Nations to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization.”  Venezuela fails that test, hands down.


There are at least two grounds for disqualifying Venezuela from further consideration.  First, Venezuela is committing serious human rights violations today, according to its own regional group’s human rights spokesperson.   Guatemala’s past human rights record is far from stellar, but its record is improving while Venezuela’s is rapidly deteriorating.  Second, Venezuela has demonstrated its contempt for the Security Council’s decisions by actively backing Iran’s outright threats to international peace and security in defiance of the will of the international community.  


The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States issued a statement on August 31, 2006 condemning the murder of Jesús Rafael Flores Rojas, a journalist of the daily Región, in Venezuela.  This was no random act of violence.  On the night of August 23, 2006, Rojas arrived at his house in the locality of El Tigre, when an individual shot Rojas eight times in the presence of his daughter before fleeing in an automobile.  He had received prior death threats in response to his investigative political reporting.


Nor was the murder of Rojas one isolated case.  It followed two prior murders in 2006. Joaquín Tovar, the editor of the weekly Venezuelan paper Ahora, was shot and killed June 17th, while Jorge Aguirre, a photographer with El Mundo newspaper in Caracas, was killed April 5th


And the violence directed against journalists in Venezuela continues.  On October 7, 2006, journalist Pedro Bastardo was killed by several shots to the head.  On September 30, 2006, a team of reporters working for news channel Globovisión was assaulted, allegedly by supporters of President Hugo Chávez, during the march of presidential candidate for the opposition, Manuel Rosales, in the state of Trujillo, eastern Venezuela.  On September 19th, a reporter, Paulimar Rodríguez of the newspaper "El Nacional", was also assaulted during a Rosales march, allegedly by Chávez supporters.  We are seeing violence directed at journalists by a bunch of fascist bullies, with Chavez’s regime the obvious beneficiary of a frightened press. 


Chávez has also railed against privately owned television stations, whose licenses are due to expire in 2007, charging that they broadcast content designed to "divide" the country.  With Presidential “elections” in Venezuela coming up this December, the policy of press intimidation is obvious.   


Chavez has not confined his intimidation to the press.  He also has jailed political opponents.  In ordering the trial of four civil society leaders on dubious charges of treason, a Venezuelan court has assented to government persecution of political opponents, Human Rights Watch declared in July 2005.   “The court has given the government a green light to persecute its opponents,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Prosecuting people for treason when they engage in legitimate electoral activities is utterly absurd.”  


Coupled with Venezuela’s deplorable human rights record at home is Chavez’s demonstration of contempt for the United Nations itself.   Perhaps his personal denunciations of President Bush as the “devil” before the General Assembly last month can be dismissed as the grand-standing of a lunatic buffoon.  But his unswerving apologia for Iran’s defiance of the Security Council cannot be so easily excused.    Last February, Venezuela joined Cuba and Syria in opposing the referral of Iran to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions.   Iran ignored the Council’s August 31st deadline to freeze its uranium enrichment program and continues to call the Security Council "illegitimate" as it finally prepares for possible sanctions against the rogue regime.   Chavez continues to serve as Iran’s perfect lackey, supporting Iran’s nuclear ambitions and promising to thwart any international consensus toward sanctions against Iran.   Parroting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel tirades before an adoring crowd at Tehran University during a recent visit to Iran, Chavez accused Israel of “terrorism and pure fascism."  And Chavez’s trade with Iran, now in excess of $1 billion, may include lethal materials being brought into Venezuela, including nuclear technology.  Like Iran’s leaders, Chavez denies any intention of developing nuclear weapons.  Yet his government has reportedly signed agreements on nuclear energy and sought to buy a nuclear reactor, with no involvement of the civilian Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research.  A prominent Venezuelan physicist has suggested that his country may indeed be embarked on a path to join the Nuclear Club along with North Korea and Iran.


Iran awarded Chavez its highest state medal in gratitude for his "support for Iran's stance on the international scene", according to an Iranian station.   In contrast to Venezuela’s complicity in undermining the authority of the very same Security Council that it wishes to join, Guatemala has actively supported that institution’s decisions.  It contributed personnel for UN peacekeeping operations in each of the years 2006, 2005 and 2004.  Venezuela has not contributed a single person during any of those years.


Chavez fancies himself as Castro’s successor, leading the world’s “oppressed” against the capitalist imperialists of the West.   Maybe, he does deserve the title.  After all, he has been Castro’s loyal puppet for many years.  Now he is adding Ahmadinejad as another puppeteer.  In his pathetic campaign for relevance on the world stage, Chavez is diverting oil revenues from meeting the needs of the poor back home in order to buy his way onto the Security Council.   He should be soundly rebuffed as a fraud who wants to sabotage the Security Council for his buddies, to the detriment of international peace and security. 


As a group of self-described “Venezolanos suffering (no peace, no prosperity, no hope) from Chavez lies” recently commented on the Internet (but would dare not write in any local Venezuelan newspaper for fear that they would end up like the murdered journalists): “We are Venezolanos living in Venezuela that want to apologize to the American People for the entropy that HUGO wants to create. He only has created fear and mistrust among the Venezuelan people and wants to do the same all around the world.”  The people suffering under Chavez’s yoke know him best and detest him.


In its previous four elections to the Security Council, Venezuela received over 90% of the votes and was elected in the first round.  This time, it appears that less than half of the countries of Latin America are currently supporting Venezuela.  Some of these countries have expressed resentment at Chavez’s interference in their elections.  They know their neighbor better than any country could outside of the region and do not trust him.


It is time for the President of the General Assembly to end Chavez’s theater of the absurd immediately and call for the election of a member state from the Latin American region that meets the minimum qualifications for a seat on the Security Council.


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