Russia Blocks Venezuela Measure at U.N., Calling It a U.S. Ploy for Regime Change
Calling it a “mere pretext” for sinister intent, Russia vetoed an American resolution in the United Nations Security Council on Thursday for new elections and unhindered distribution of humanitarian aid in Venezuela.
It was the latest clash in a Cold War-style quarrel playing out amid the chaos unfolding in Venezuela, once Latin America’s most prosperous country.
From the outset, there was little hope the American measure would surmount opposition from Russia, which proposed a rival resolution that was roundly rejected by the Security Council.
China, another permanent member of the council, also opposed the American resolution.
The Kremlin has aligned closely with President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela even as the United States and about 50 other countries, many of them in Latin America and Europe, have renounced relations with him.
They have accused Mr. Maduro’s government of grossly mismanaging the country and driving the economy to the brink of collapse, causing a humanitarian catastrophe that has forced more than 3.4 million to flee.
These countries have thrown their support behind Juan Guaidó, the 35-year-old leader of the opposition in Venezuela’s National Assembly, who declared himself president last month. On Thursday he arrived in Brazil for talks with that country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, a harsh Maduro critic.
In remarks before the Security Council, Elliott Abrams, the Trump administration’s special representative for Venezuela, referred to the “corrupt former Maduro regime,” and urged a “peaceful transition to democracy.”
“Regardless of the results of today’s vote, this resolution shows that democracies around the world and especially in Latin America are mobilizing behind interim President Guaidó,” Mr. Abrams said.
Nine countries in the 15-member Security Council voted for the American measure, enough for it to have passed had Russia and China not voted against it. Any “no” vote by a permanent member vetoes a resolution.
Though the American resolution said nothing about possible military intervention, President Trump has said that “all options are open,” a sentiment that Mr. Abrams echoed in his remarks.
Russia and others have accused the United States of plotting to overthrow Mr. Maduro by force, a possibility that even harsh critics of the current regime strongly oppose.
“Hypocritical concerns about the humanitarian situation in the country is a mere pretext,” said Vassily A. Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations.
“Washington is obstinately seeking to escalate tensions and to implement their scenario for an unconstitutional change of government,” he said. He later referenced the role of the United States in the overthrow of Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya in 2011 as an example of why the stated humanitarian goals of American officials cannot be trusted.
“If the United States were genuinely keen to help the people of Venezuela,” Mr. Nebenzia said, “then they would operate through official channels, through any of the U.N. accredited agencies in that country. But that’s not their goal.”
Mr. Maduro’s popularity in Venezuela has plummeted as basic services and institutions buckle under the strain of economic collapse. Food, medicine and fuel have grown increasingly scarce.
Mr. Maduro and his supporters have blamed the economic crisis on sanctions imposed by the United States. In January, the Trump administration imposed sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil company and froze $7 billion in assets, cutting off the country’s most important source of revenue.
In his remarks on Thursday, Venezuela’s ambassador, Samuel Moncada Acosta, described Venezuela as “completely at peace,” but denounced what he described as a “colonial intervention” by the United States.