U.S. Urges New Venezuela Elections. One Obstacle: Russia.
UNITED NATIONS — Forcing a possible United Nations showdown with Russia over the Venezuela crisis, the United States distributed a resolution on Wednesday calling for “free, fair and credible presidential elections” in the impoverished Latin American country and unfettered distribution of humanitarian aid.
The resolution was likely to be put to a Security Council vote on Thursday, Council diplomats said, and barring some compromise was almost certain to be vetoed by Russia.
A resolution needs nine yes votes in the 15-member Council to win, but a no vote by any of the five permanent members, which include Russia, would block it.
Diplomats said an aim in bringing the measure to a vote was to embarrass the Russians, who have stood by President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and described him as the victim of American big-power bullying and arrogance.
The face-off between the Americans and Russians over Venezuela, which was once Latin America’s most prosperous country and sits atop the world’s biggest proven oil reserves, is reminiscent of the Cold War.
The United States and roughly 50 other countries, including many in Latin America and Europe, have denounced what they call a culture of corruption and mismanagement by Mr. Maduro’s brand of socialist governance in Venezuela, which has been reeling from an economic collapse.
They have thrown their support behind Juan Guaidó, the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, who declared himself interim president a month ago on grounds that Mr. Maduro had won elections last May through fraud and was destroying the country.
The American move at the United Nations came less than a week after a coalition of countries led by the United States sought unsuccessfully to send convoys of food and medical aid into Venezuela through Colombia and Brazil.
Mr. Maduro’s armed forces and other loyalists blocked the deliveries at the border, saying the aid was unneeded and calling it a pretext for an American invasion. Violent clashes left at least four Venezuelans dead and many injured from rubber bullets and tear-gas.
The aid campaign’s failure appeared to be a significant setback for Mr. Guaidó, who had left Venezuela in violation of a travel ban to help lead the convoy effort from Colombia.
He had expressed hope that members of Venezuela’s military would desert Mr. Maduro en masse and allow the convoys in.
Mr. Guaidó was reported to be in Brazil, and his plans for returning to Venezuela were not disclosed. But he could be barred from going back by Mr. Maduro or possibly arrested if and when he tried to return.
“As a citizen, I believe it’s treason what he’s doing to his people,” Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, said of Mr. Guaidó in an interview this week at Venezuela’s United Nations mission.
In a meeting at the Security Council on Tuesday, Mr. Arreaza said the effort led by Mr. Guaidó had failed. Addressing American diplomats in the chamber, he said “now is the time for us to return to sanity and international law.”
Mr. Arreaza struck a more conciliatory tone on Wednesday in Geneva, where he spoke at the United Nations Human Rights Council and called for dialogue between Mr. Maduro and President Trump. But Mr. Arreaza drew a hostile reception from other diplomats of countries that recognize Mr. Guaidó. As he made his way to the podium, about 60 representatives from 16 missions walked out in protest.
A draft of the American resolution on the Security Council agenda for Thursday, seen by The New York Times, does not include any language that could be construed as the basis for a military intervention in Venezuela, addressing the concerns expressed by other countries who do not want to see the crisis turn into a war.
Nonetheless, a key passage of the resolution, which expresses “deep concern that the presidential elections of May 20, 2018, were neither free nor fair,” seemed bound to provoke Russian objections.
The draft also called for “the start of a peaceful political process leading to free, fair, and credible presidential elections, with international electoral observation, in conformity with Venezuela’s Constitution.”
Other provisions stressed “the importance of ensuring the security” of political opposition members — a clear reference to Mr. Guaidó and his associates — and the need to “facilitate unhindered access and delivery of assistance to all in need.”
Mr. Maduro is not popular in Venezuela, where hunger and deprivation have intensified in recent years and hyperinflation has made the national currency nearly worthless. More than 3.4 million Venezuelans have fled to neighboring countries.
Russia and other defenders of Mr. Maduro blame Venezuela’s crisis on American sanctions imposed on the country, including the recent seizure of assets belonging to the state oil company, Pdvsa, the government’s main source of revenue.
The Trump administration has increasingly focused on Venezuela’s economic calamity, seeking to frame it as a lesson in the failures of socialism, in what appears to be part of President Trump’s own 2020 re-election strategy.
Mr. Trump gave an anti-Maduro speech last week at a rally in Miami attended by disaffected Venezuelans, declaring that the demise of socialism in their country was imminent and warning that Mr. Maduro’s loyalists in the military should abandon him or “lose everything.”