- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

NEW YORK — Guatemala failed repeatedly to muster the necessary votes to beat out Venezuela for a Latin American seat on the U.N. Security Council yesterday, prompting diplomats to demand a compromise candidate.

In the 16th round of voting in the 192-member General Assembly, Guatemala had gained 108 votes to Venezuela’s 76, results that differed little from previous rounds. That was short of the 123 needed for a two-thirds majority to win a two-year stint on the most powerful U.N. body.

The voting results led diplomats to call for an alternative — a step that would require the United Nations’ Latin American and Caribbean group of nations to agree on a new candidate. Guatemala and Venezuela would have to give up their campaigns, though neither appeared ready to do so yesterday afternoon.

“It’s obvious that the General Assembly is sharply divided, and we are facing a deadlock in this election,” said Yahya Mahmassani, the Arab League’s U.N. representative. “We look forward to the group of Latin American and Caribbean states to find a solution to this impasse, with the acquiescence and acceptance of the two candidates.”

Other potential candidates include Uruguay, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

The results were seen as a setback for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who had lobbied hard in capitals around the world, offering millions of petrodollars in aid.

Diplomats said his bombastic speech to the General Assembly last month, when Mr. Chavez railed against the United States and called President Bush “the devil,” may have hurt Venezuela’s chances.

It was the second embarrassing setback this week for the fiery Venezuelan leader.

Chavez admirer Rafael Correa, an outspoken critic of U.S. policy in Latin America, unexpectedly ran second to a pro-American billionaire in Ecuador’s presidential election on Sunday, and now must campaign from behind for a Nov. 26 runoff.

Front-running banana magnate Alvaro Noboa rose quickly in the final weeks of the campaign, in part by labeling Mr. Correa a communist and “a friend of Chavez, a friend of Cuba.”

Peru’s new president, Alan Garcia, enjoyed similar success in a June election by linking his nationalist opponent Ollanta Humala to Mr. Chavez.

Mr. Garcia proclaimed his victory as a rejection of the “strategy of expansion of a militaristic, retrograde model that [Mr. Chavez] has tried to impose in South America.”

The U.N. vote, however, also reflected the ambivalence toward Guatemala, Washington’s preferred candidate. Even Guatemalan Foreign Minister Gert Rosenthal had expressed discomfort about the highly public U.S. campaign against Venezuela and in support of Guatemala.

After Monday’s balloting, Mr. Rosenthal said his nation was an “independent voice” that would vote according to its policies.

Venezuela’s U.N. ambassador, Francisco Arias Cardenas, complained yesterday that the United States had pressed countries worldwide to prevent Venezuela from winning a seat on the 15-nation council.

“We are fighting against the first power of the world, the owners of the universe,” Mr. Arias Cardenas said. “We’re happy, we’re strong, and we will continue.”

The record number of ballots for a council seat occurred in 1979, when the General Assembly held 154 unsuccessful votes to choose between Cuba and Colombia. Mexico was then put forward and won in the 155th round.

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