Russia and China vetoed a U.S.-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution Thursday calling for a “peaceful political process” leading to free elections in Venezuela.
Nine council members voted in favor, while South Africa joined Russia and China in voting no, and three abstained. To pass, a resolution needs nine votes in support and no vetoes by the five permanent members, which include Russia and China. Both countries back the authoritarian regime of President Nicolas Maduro.
“If this resolution were to be adopted, it would be the first time in history the Security Council would decide to appoint a president and dismiss another one,” Russian envoy Vassily Nebenzya told the council. He said the U.S. policy is a “smokescreen” for regime change.
Diplomatic discussions over the future of Venezuela, devastated by a sinking economy and political strife, have intensified since U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo visited the U.N. in late January and called on world leaders to recognize National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as the nation’s interim president. Guaido says the nation’s constitution makes him the rightful head of state because Maduro’s re-election was fraudulent.
“The corrupt former Maduro regime has caused an economic collapse that threatens peace and security throughout the region,” Elliott Abrams, the U.S. envoy for Venezuela, told the Security Council on Thursday. “Millions of Venezuelans have fled their country in search of food, medicine and opportunity.”
With Moscow and Washington supporting opposing sides, the council is likely to remain on the sidelines even as the South American nation’s population slips further into hunger and deprivation. Maduro has largely ignored the situation, but researchers have estimated 20,000 infants have died in the past two years thanks to the crisis. Guaido’s bid to bring in humanitarian aid was repelled violently by the military and pro-Maduro gangs last weekend.
Russia and the U.S. have been circulating rival resolutions this month, with the U.S. stressing the humanitarian crisis and condemning the use of force by the military, which remains mostly loyal to Maduro. Russia’s proposed texts, which haven’t garnered enough support to be brought up for a vote, championed Venezuela’s sovereign rights and expressed concern about the military threat implied by the Trump administration’s vow to consider “all options” to force out Maduro.
U.S. allies on the Security Council — including France, the U.K., Belgium, and Germany — have backed American calls for new elections but are wary about military escalation. They helped negotiate a toned-down resolution, excising language that labeled Maduro’s regime a “disruption to peace and security,” diplomats said.
In a debate at the U.N. on Tuesday, Nebenzya said the U.S. was using efforts to deliver humanitarian aid as a cover for military moves to topple Maduro. Humanitarian groups shunned the effort as a political ploy, and Nebenzya questioned why the U.S. hadn’t sent the supplies through usual U.N. channels.
Abrams retorted that such aid would be diverted by the Maduro regime.
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