Competing United States, Russian Federation Draft Resolutions on Political, Humanitarian Situation in Venezuela Blocked in Security Council

SC/13725
28 February 2019
8476th Meeting (PM)

Competing United States, Russian Federation Draft Resolutions on Political, Humanitarian Situation in Venezuela Blocked in Security Council

The Security Council failed today to adopt two competing draft resolutions — one from the Russian Federation, the other from the United States — responding to the political and humanitarian situation in Venezuela.

By the terms of the draft put forward by the United States, which was vetoed by China and the Russian Federation, the Council would have expressed its deep concern that the presidential elections of 20 May 2018 were neither free nor fair, and call 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.

It would have supported the peaceful restoration of democracy and rule of law in Venezuela and encouraged subsequent peaceful, inclusive, and credible initiatives to address the crisis.  It would also have stressed the importance of ensuring the security of all members of the National Assembly, and members of the political opposition, as well as the need to prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Venezuela and to facilitate unhindered access and delivery of assistance to all in need throughout the country in line with humanitarian principles.

The draft resolution from the Russian Federation, which lacked the minimum number of affirmative votes for passage, would have had the Council urge the settlement of the situation in Venezuela through peaceful means, within the framework of its Constitution, and in full respect of its sovereignty, territorial integrity and the right to self-determination of the Venezuelan people, as well as welcome the Secretary-General’s calls in that regard.

It would have supported all initiatives aimed at reaching a political solution amongst Venezuelans to the situation, including the Montevideo Mechanism, through a genuine and inclusive process of national dialogue; reaffirm the Government’s primary role in the initiation, organization, coordination and implementation of international assistance efforts and initiatives within its national territory; and recall that such assistance should be provided with the consent of, and on the basis of an appeal by, the Government.

Speaking after the vote on his delegation’s text, Elliot Abrams, Special Representative for Venezuela of the United States, said the situation in Venezuela requires immediate Council action.  “The time for a peaceful transition to democracy is now,” he said.  Asserting that some Council members are choosing to shield President Nicolás Maduro and his cronies, he said the United States will remain steadfast in its support for interim President Juan Guaidó and the National Assembly.

The representative of the Russian Federation, who took the floor twice, said his delegation was forced to exercise its veto because the United States draft was not geared towards resolving the problem in Venezuela.  Emphasizing that his delegation’s text was aimed at helping Venezuelans solve their own problems, he said a decision to hold elections or not is theirs alone to take.  “Do not decide for them,” he said, adding that today’s vote was a glaring example of the need for the veto in the Council.

Expressing regret over the lack of Council unity, Peru’s representative said the failure to adopt the United States draft — for which his delegation voted in favour — is incomprehensible, given that it was a minimal text with no references to human rights violations, the terrible humanitarian situation, the breakdown of the economic order and the exodus of more than 3 million Venezuelans.

South Africa’s delegate, who voted in favour of the Russian Federation’s text and against its United States counterpart, said it was unfortunate that two divergent drafts were submitted.  Division in the Council undermined its credibility, he said, describing the United States draft as unbalanced and prescriptive.

The representative of Indonesia said his delegation refused to accept either draft resolution because they were both incomplete and overly politicized — nor, he added, would they help Venezuelans.  “In all honesty, I have to admit that my delegation is starting to believe that dialogue and negotiations are a luxury here in the Council,” he said.

Venezuela’s representative, speaking at the end of the meeting, said his country rejects the fact that its Constitution is being used to justify a colonial intervention and to support a fictious entity.  Economic war is being waged against Venezuela, violating the rights of its people and turning them into hostages, he said, adding that in the past two weeks, the United States and the United Kingdom had stolen more than $30 billion from the Venezuelan people.

Calling for the principles of the United Nations Charter to be defended, he said his country wants respect for national sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and non-intervention in domestic affairs, as well as its people’s right to self-determination and equality.  “Most of all,” he added, “we are asking the Council for our right to peace.”

Also speaking today were representatives of China, Belgium, Dominican Republic, United Kingdom, Germany and Poland.

The meeting began at 3:08 p.m. and ended at 4:21 p.m.

Action on Draft Resolutions

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), noting that a draft resolution was just tabled by the United States, said that that country’s double standards culminated today.  What is necessary now is genuine national inclusive dialogue in Venezuela.  The United States “imposed its scenario”, he said, as its text acknowledges the legitimacy of the National Assembly and expresses concern that the presidential elections of 20 May 2018 were neither free nor fair — many months after the elections were held.  The United States-sponsored resolution has no chance of being adopted, but the United States still presented the text as a shameless propaganda.  The goal of that country is regime change in Venezuela.  Council members who are genuinely concerned about the situation in Venezuela should not become complicit in this mockery.

The Council, by a vote of 9 in favour (Belgium, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Kuwait, Peru, Poland, United Kingdom, United States) to 3 against (China, Russian Federation, South Africa), with 3 abstentions (Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia), then failed to adopt the draft resolution submitted by the delegation of the United States (document S/2019/186), owing to the negative votes of permanent Council members.

ELLIOT ABRAMS, Special Representative for Venezuela of the United States, said the situation in Venezuela requires immediate Council action.  “The time for a peaceful transition to democracy is now,” he said, adding that each member of the international community that joins in recognizing the Government of interim President Juan Guaidó is supporting the Venezuelan people as they strive to regain their democracy.  However, he added, some Council members are choosing to shield President Nicolás Maduro and his cronies, although last weekend’s events demonstrate that he will stop at nothing to remain in power.  The United States will remain steadfast in its support for the interim President and the National Assembly, he said, adding that his country will continue to offer humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans inside and outside the country.  He went on to reiterate concern about the safety of the interim President when he returns to Venezuela.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), noting that his delegation voted in favour of the text, expressed regret over the lack of Council unity to contribute to addressing the situation in Venezuela, which represents an unprecedented threat to regional peace, security and prosperity.  Failure to adopt the draft resolution is incomprehensible, given that it was a minimal text with no references to human rights violations, the terrible humanitarian situation, the breakdown of the economic order and the exodus of more than 3 million Venezuelans.  It was, however, encouraging to see a majority of Council members reaffirming their commitment and solidarity with the people of Venezuela in anticipation of free, just and credible elections with the involvement of international observers.

WU HAITAO (China) said he voted against the United States draft as it was inconsistent with his delegation’s positions.  China fully respects the sovereignty of nations, including that of Venezuela, and opposes the use of external force and military interventions.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) voted in favour of the United States text as it contains critical components necessary for a peaceful solution.  In line with the stance of the European Union, Belgium supports the need for a political process and the holding of fair, credible presidential elections. 

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) stressed the need to hold free and competitive presidential elections.  This is necessary to overcome differences that have led to the current tensions.  Use of force is not an option, and inclusive dialogue is necessary.  The Council must create suitable conditions to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) said that it is clear that inclusive political dialogue is key to resolving the crisis.  It was unfortunate that two divergent drafts were submitted.  The Council should be united in supporting Venezuela and speak in one voice.  This division undermines the Council’s credibility.  The United States draft is unbalanced and prescriptive.  His delegation opposes preambular paragraph 4 and operative paragraphs 1 and 4 in that text.  Therefore, it did not support the United States draft.

The Council, by a vote of 4 in favour (China, Equatorial Guinea, Russian Federation, South Africa) to 7 against (Belgium, France, Germany, Peru, Poland, United Kingdom, United States), with 4 abstentions (Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kuwait), then failed to adopt the draft resolution submitted by the delegation of the Russian Federation (document S/2019/190), having not obtained the required number of votes.

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said the fact that the Russian Federation’s text failed, and that the United States text was vetoed, demonstrated the unease that many Member States feel about the situation in Venezuela and how untenable it is.  The United States text did not seek a transfer of power, but free and fair elections.  Describing the Maduro presidency as illegitimate, she said:  “There are limits to how far a Government can inflict damage and suffering on its own people.”  The United Kingdom voted against the Russian Federation’s text because, among other things, it pretended that a threat to use force against Venezuela exists and failed to address the man-made humanitarian situation.

WALTER J. LINDNER, State Secretary, Federal Foreign Office of Germany, said the United States text, for which his delegation voted in favour, recognized the dire man-made humanitarian situation, respected Venezuela’s sovereignty and dovetailed with the European Union’s call for free, fair and credible elections.  Its Russian counterpart presented no solution to the crisis, but rather favoured a regime that lacks the support of the Venezuelan population.  He added that serious human rights violations by the Maduro regime and the exodus of refugees made the situation a threat to the entire region.

Mr. MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said his delegation did not support the Russian Federation’s text as it fails to take into account the issue of human rights violations and the urgency of holding free, fair and credible presidential elections.  The Russian Federation’s text also looks at some provisions of the United Nations Charter selectively.  It fails to acknowledge the urgent need to support 3.4 million citizens who have fled the country.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) voted against the Russian Federation’s draft and regretted that not all Council members were engaged in consultations on the text.  The text fails to acknowledge the humanitarian catastrophe in Venezuela.  It is the Council’s responsibility to address the situation in Venezuela as it poses a threat to international peace and security.  Venezuelans deserve a better future.

Mr. MATJILA (South Africa) said his delegation supported the Russian Federation’s text as it is consistent with international law and the principles of the United Nations Charter.  The text promotes a peaceful settlement of disputes, in line with the Charter.  The text also reiterates the need to fully respect the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence for the provision of international assistance.  The Russian Federation’s text is a reaffirmation of the Charter in terms of the scope and application.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said his delegation refused to accept both drafts as they are incomplete and overly politicized, and neither would help Venezuelans.  Both drafts made little attempt to find a consensus.  His delegation wishes to see a more balanced draft, which would affirm the principle of non-interference, sovereignty and territorial integrity; the importance of inclusive political dialogue involving all parties, recognizing the urgency of addressing humanitarian needs; and the need to address the plights of Venezuelan refugees affecting neighbouring countries.  “In all honesty, I have to admit that my delegation is starting to believe that dialogue and negotiations are a luxury here in the Council,” he said.

Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), taking the floor a second time, said his delegation was forced to exercise its veto because the United States draft was not geared towards resolving the problem in Venezuela.  The Russian Federation’s text would have helped the Venezuelan people resolve their problems themselves.  Whether or not to hold elections is a decision to be taken by the Venezuelan people themselves, he said, adding:  “Do not decide for them.”  He went on to say that those supporting the United States text “are literally and figuratively burning down bridges” that would otherwise lead to dialogue.  He described today’s vote as a glaring example of why the veto is necessary.

SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela), emphasizing that threats to peace in Venezuela are coming from abroad, said his country rejects the fact that its Constitution is being used to justify a colonial intervention and to support a fictious entity.  Any Government of a self-proclaimed leader is a dictatorship, he said.  Those European countries assisting the United States in its adventure are doing so despite warnings from their own legal experts and parliaments that their actions represent hostile acts against Venezuela.  The United States text also fails to mention violent border incidents last weekend, he said, emphasizing that no international law allows a Government to show up at a border crossing with unknown cargo and force its way across.

He went on to say that economic war is being waged against Venezuela, violating the rights of its people and turning them into hostages in violation of the United Nations Charter.  He added that in the past two weeks, the United States and the United Kingdom — one a strong Power, the other in decline — robbed more than $30 billion from the Venezuela people.  If those countries are really interested in the Venezuelan people, they should return what they stole.  “Wars are not just conducted with bombs, but also with banks,” he said.  He added that President Donald J. Trump of the United States is threatening the Venezuelan people with the military option, that a United Kingdom naval ship is in the area and that United States troops were operating along the Colombian border at the same time as threats were being made against the life of President Maduro. 

Calling for the principles of the United Nations Charter to be defended, he said his country is asking for respect for national sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and non-intervention in domestic affairs, as well as its people’s right to self-determination and equality.  “Most of all,” he added, “we are asking the Council for our right to peace.”

Ms. PIERCE (United Kingdom), taking the floor a second time to respond to “a number of lurid claims” directed at her delegation, said that if theft and plunder are occurring against the people of Venezuela, it is being carried out by its Government, not hers.

For information media. Not an official record.