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Embassy Row: U.N. ‘Dictatorfest’

- - Sunday, March 18, 2012

The feisty chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee denounced a special U.N. meeting as a "dictatorfest" after she learned that some of the world's most authoritarian regimes planned to defend Venezuela's human rights record.

"'Dictatorfest' is taking place at the U.N. Human Rights Council, with all benefits going to the Venezuelan regime," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, said last week.

The council met in Geneva on Friday and issued a report that the Venezuelan government of leftist President Hugo Chavez embraced.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen noted that diplomats from China, Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea, Syria and Vietnam were scheduled to support Venezuela, which was the subject this year of a periodic human rights review of all 193 members of the United Nations.

"It is outrageous and dangerous that tyrants continue to hijack the Human Rights Council and other U.N. bodies in order to protect each other, while condemning free democracies such as the United States and Israel," Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said.

The Human Rights Council has adopted 32 resolutions condemning Israel since the United Nations created the 47-member panel in 2006. That number represents 48 percent of all of the council resolutions.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen also accused Mr. Chavez of "ruthlessly" expanding his power "at the expense of the fundamental freedoms of the Venezuelan people."

Mr. Chavez's representative on the council, Deputy Foreign Minister Temir Porras, welcomed the review as a "demonstration of strength and commitment to the observance of human rights" in Venezuela.

HUNGARIANS STILL ROCK

The Hungarian Embassy is still rockin' five years after Ambassador Andras Simonyi gave his last performance with his own rock band, the Coalition of the Willing, and returned to Budapest.

However, the embassy's new band, the Diplomats, needs help. The players are looking for a singer "with a characteristic tone fitting rock and blues songs." They'll take a man or a woman.

The band asks anyone who will devote about two hours a week to rehearsals to send an email to RSVP.WAS@mfa.gov.hu.

Mr. Simonyi, ambassador here from 2002 to 2007, organized a band with drummer Alexander Vershbow, a former U.S. ambassador, and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, a former guitarist with the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan who now is a Defense Department adviser.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Monday

• Alexander Alvaro, a German member of the European Parliament from the Free Democratic Party. He leads a parliamentary delegation to discuss EU-U.S. privacy issues with members of Congress and administration officials.

• Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar of Portugal, who addresses the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

• Jesus Zambrano, president of Mexico's Democratic Revolutionary Party, who discusses the July 1 presidential election at a briefing at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The event is co-sponsored by the Inter-American Dialogue.

• Iurie Leanca, deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Moldova, who addresses the Atlantic Council.

Tuesday

• Gabriel Quadri de la Torre, a candidate for president of Mexico from the New Alliance Party. He addresses the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

Wednesday

• Geraldine Finucane, widow of Catholic Belfast lawyer Patrick Finucane, who was killed by Protestant paramilitary gunmen in 1989; Christopher Stanley of British-Irish Rights Watch; and Mark Thompson of the Belfast-based Relatives for Justice. They testify before the congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe at 2 p.m. in Room 2247 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.