Venezuela’s Top Diplomat Enlists Support From Dozens of Nations to Counter U.S.
UNITED NATIONS — Venezuela’s foreign minister said Thursday that a new coalition of nations would fight what he called an illicit, American-led effort to topple his government, and he accused the United States of using sanctions and emergency aid as political weapons against Venezuelans.
“We all have the right to live without the threat of use of force and without application of illegal, coercive unilateral measures,” the foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, told reporters at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York.
He described American-led actions as violations of United Nations Charter provisions that forbid threats or interference in a member’s internal affairs.
“We are an important group of countries who are sure that the majority of the members of this organization share the same interests,” Mr. Arreaza said, reading a statement outside the Security Council chambers.
He was flanked by ambassadors of several countries that have joined the group, which includes China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia and Syria. Diplomats said the group totaled about 50 nations.
Mr. Arreaza did not specify what steps the group would be taking, but said it would “begin a series of actions to raise awareness around the dangers that our peoples currently face.”
The remarks by Mr. Arreaza amounted to the most concerted effort yet by Venezuela’s embattled government to mobilize support for President Nicolás Maduro at the United Nations and cast the Trump administration as the wrongdoer in the Venezuelan crisis.
Once Latin America’s most prosperous country, Venezuela has over the past few years veered toward economic collapse, hyperinflation and hunger, which the opposition has blamed on corruption and mismanagement by Mr. Maduro’s socialist government.
His legitimacy was challenged three weeks ago when the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, declared himself president during major antigovernment protests, arguing that Mr. Maduro had been elected fraudulently.
The Trump administration and the governments of roughly 50 other nations, including Canada, Brazil and many in the European Union, have recognized Mr. Guaidó. President Trump also has imposed severe sanctions on Venezuela, including a halt to all imports of Venezuelan oil, the country’s lifeline export, as part of a pressure campaign aimed at forcing Mr. Maduro to resign.
The secretary general of the United Nations, António Guterres, has offered to help mediate the political crisis in Venezuela. But as far as the United Nations is concerned, Mr. Maduro’s government is still the legitimate representative of Venezuela.
While Mr. Guaidó has named his own ambassador to the United States, he has not taken steps aimed at unseating the Venezuelan Mission to the United Nations. Diplomats have said such a change would require a vote of the 193-member General Assembly that Mr. Guaidó’s side would most likely lose.
Answering questions from reporters, Mr. Arreaza ridiculed a Feb. 23 deadline that Mr. Guaidó had set for the import of humanitarian supplies to ease acute shortages of food and medicine in Venezuela. The United States has said it would send at least $20 million.
Mr. Maduro, his foreign minister said, is the only one in Venezuela who can make deadlines, and he has refused to allow the aid to enter the country. Mr. Arreaza accused the United States of causing the deprivations and falsely asserting this was Mr. Maduro’s fault.
“The U.S. has blocked our economy,” Mr. Arreaza said. “The cost of this blockade is over $30 billion — and they are sending this so-called humanitarian aid for $20 million. So what is this? I’m choking you, I’m killing you, and then I’m giving you a cookie? So that’s a show.”