Bogota: Venezuela's socialist government has quietly secured the backing of Latin America and the Caribbean to obtain a diplomatic trophy that long eluded the late Hugo Chavez: a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
The unanimous endorsement of Venezuela's candidacy to represent the region on the Security Council came at a closed-door meeting July 23 in New York, according to Amin Cruz, a diplomat at the UN from the Dominican Republic, which chaired the meeting.
When Chavez last tried for a seat in 2006, the United States succeeded in torpedoing his campaign. This year, Washington has been mum.
While Venezuela must still muster a two-thirds majority in a secret ballot of 193 member nations at the UN General Assembly next month, the lack so far of a rival candidate from the region means the chances of its candidacy being derailed are slim, analysts say.
If it does win a seat, world leaders will almost certainly hear some fiery rhetoric from El Comandante's favorite daughter, Maria Gabriela Chavez, who last month was named Venezuela's deputy ambassador to the UN And since countries sit alphabetically in the council chamber, Venezuela would almost certainly end up next to the United States, perhaps provoking some dramatic moments when the two governments butt heads on big issues, from the crisis in Ukraine to Syria's civil war.
The region's willingness to rally behind Venezuela troubles critics of President Nicolas Maduro and his crackdown on anti-government street protests. While the US and human rights groups have accused regional leaders of being too timid in responding to the unrest, which left 42 people dead, an affinity with Maduro's anti-US stance in many parts of Latin America and his use of Venezuela's extensive oil wealth to win allies among poorer Caribbean nations mean few governments are eager to publicly take Caracas to task.
"Venezuela's tendency to side with abusive governments makes it a less than ideal candidate to help manage the many human rights tragedies the Security Council is currently facing," said Philippe Bolopion, UN director at Human Rights Watch.
Venezuela's foreign ministry declined to comment about the Security Council bid, or even acknowledge it was seeking a seat.