WASHINGTON - The United Nations Security Council is set to vote Thursday on dueling U.S. and Russian resolutions on controlling the turmoil in Venezuela, but both could fail.
The United States, leading the 50-nation support for self-declared interim president Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader in Caracas, is calling for adoption of a measure urging "the peaceful restoration of democracy and rule of law" in Venezuela. The resolution calls for a new, free and fair presidential election and unimpeded transport of humanitarian aid into the South American country.
Russia and China, which are continuing their support of embattled socialist President Nicolas Maduro, are likely to veto the U.S. resolution. A competing Russia resolution instead calls for a peaceful settlement of the conflict, but says that Maduro needs to approve aid deliveries, which he has blocked from entering the country on the grounds that they are a pretext to a U.S. military invasion.
The Russia measure, which expresses "concern over the threats to use force" against Venezuela, is unlikely to garner the nine votes necessary for adoption, U.N. diplomats say. U.S. President Donald Trump has not ruled out U.S. military intervention in Venezuela, but has not moved to overthrow Maduro even as the U.S. has led a coalition of South American and European nations in recognizing Guaido.
Orchestrated ‘humanitarian show’
U.S. and Russian diplomats exchanged verbal broadsides this week about their positions on Venezuela.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia called last Saturday's attempt by the Venezuelan opposition to move aid shipments from Colombia into Venezuela nothing but a "humanitarian show" orchestrated by the United States.
Nebenzia said the Trump administration's sole goal is "regime change, including with threats to do so via foreign intervention."
Elliott Abrams, the U.S. envoy for Venezuela, rebuked the Russian envoy, saying, "I reject from start to finish, I reject from top to bottom, accusations of military interventions from a country that is occupying the territory of Georgia and Ukraine."
Ahead of the U.N. Security Council votes, Abrams told reporters that U.S. policy "is to use as much diplomatic and economic and political pressure as we can," along with the several dozen countries supporting Guaido, "to support the Venezuelan people's desire for democracy."
Troops and supporters of Maduro last Saturday blocked the entry of trucks carrying humanitarian aid - food and medical supplies - in violent clashes, at the Colombian and Brazilian borders with Venezuela, that resulted in four people being killed and dozens injured.
‘A big problem’
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that getting aid into Venezuela to assist millions of people in need of basic necessities remains difficult. He spoke en route to the Philippines from this week's summit in Vietnam between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump.
"We are hopeful that over the next couple of weeks, we can really begin to make a dent in that problem. It is a big problem," he said.
Guaido is in Brazil to meet with President Jair Bolsonaro, another supporter of his and a Maduro opponent. Earlier in the week, Guaido met with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Colombian President Ivan Duque about the Venezuelan conflict.
Maduro has threatened Guaido with arrest if he returns home.
But Guaido said he plans to go back, telling a television interviewer, "A prisoner is no use to anyone. Neither is a president in exile. My role and my duty is to be in Caracas, despite the risks and regardless of what that implies."
Maduro told the U.S. network ABC News that Guaido would have to face justice when he returns for flouting a ban on foreign travel.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez is holding talks Friday in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, looking for continued support for the Maduro government.