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Venezuela, Guatemala to Try to Break Stalemate Over UN Council Seat


The race between Venezuela and Guatemala for a U.N. Security Council seat remains deadlocked after 47 rounds of voting in the General Assembly. The Guatemalan and Venezuelan foreign ministers are flying to New York to try to break the stalemate.

After 47 ballots, there was still no decision. The U.N. General Assembly adjourned Tuesday after holding six more inconclusive ballots.

Guatemala finished well ahead of Venezuela in every one of Tuesday's rounds. The last was 101 to 78, a 23-vote margin. But over two weeks of voting, Venezuela has maintained enough support to prevent Guatemala from reaching the two-thirds needed to win a two-year Security Council seat representing Latin America.

Chile's U.N. Ambassador Heraldo Munoz emerged from the voting saying it is clear neither candidate can win.

“The votes are absolutely consolidated,” he said. “They are frozen, the shifts are minimal and they are going to continue to be that way. None of the two candidates are going to have the two-thirds majority of the General Assembly as it stands, so we have to arrive at a political alternative. A political solution can only be decided by the two countries involved and by the foreign ministers.”

The Venezuelan and Guatemalan foreign ministers were both flying to New York late Tuesday. They are expected to meet Wednesday to try to break the impasse.

The United States is backing Guatemala in the race, and U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said Tuesday he does not see the contest as an impasse. He says Guatemala is clearly in the lead. But in comments to reporters, he acknowledged a compromise candidate may be needed.

"For now we're for Guatemala and we'll see what happens,” he said.

Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez has used his country's vast oil wealth to campaign for the Latin American seat, and has vowed not to back down. He has cast the campaign as a David versus Goliath contest.

But Venezuela's U.N. Ambassador Francisco Arias Cardenas signaled Tuesday that it may be time to compromise. Speaking through a translator, he maintained that blocking the Washington-backed candidate should be seen as a victory.

“This is a lesson for small countries about their strength, that when we unite and we agree, we can then [veto] any pressure by big countries and big powers,” he said. “Big countries have also learned you cannot pressurize small countries just because they are small or poor. Small countries have their own opinion, and they will not accept or tolerate any bullying for them to do as the big powers want them to do.”

Several countries have emerged as possible compromise choices for the seat representing Latin America and the Caribbean. Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Costa Rica are considered the leading candidates.

But diplomats cautioned Tuesday that consensus may prove difficult to achieve. Unless the rival foreign ministers reach agreement Wednesday morning, voting is due to resume later in the afternoon.

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