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Oh the Shame: Chile’s Complicity on Venezuela’s UN Security Council Seat

By: Ángel Soto - @angelsotochile - Oct 9, 2014, 2:42 pm
The Bachelet administration would prefer to be "well liked" by repressive regimes than speak out against Venezuela's UN Security Council nomination.
The Bachelet administration would prefer to be “well liked” by repressive regimes than speak out against Venezuela’s UN Security Council nomination. (PanAm Post)

EspañolIn Chile, foreign policy typically does not take center stage in the press, except in rare instances of tension with our neighbors to the north. Perhaps this is why there has been almost no debate on whether or not Chile should support Venezuela’s nomination as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Although the issue is not a traditional topic of discussion in Chile, the public must weigh in.

Should Chile support the nomination? Should Chile support a government that systematically violates the human rights of its citizens, and that is allied with dictatorships in Cuba and North Korea?

Should we become part of the “diplomatic complicity” that Nobel Peace Prize winner Óscar Arias denounced back in June? “In Venezuela they are committing human rights violations,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if Maduro was elected in free elections, or if the polls confirm his popularity. It doesn’t matter if some of his social policies supposedly aim to eliminate poverty, or if we lack the effective mechanisms for the international community to intervene. At the end of the day, whoever suppresses the opposition is an enemy of democracy.”

The former Costan Rican president also said Maduro persecutes “his opponents with a complicit and corrupt institutional machinery,” a course of action that constitutes a true “violation of everything that inspired the UN Charter, the Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States, and in general, international protection of human rights.”

Perhaps we are so naive that we fail to realize that behind this nomination lies the intention to strengthen and disseminate Chavismo. We must remember that in August, Hugo Chávez’s daughter, María Gabriela Chávez, was named Venezuela’s alternative representative to the United Nations.

She served as first lady from 2004 to 2012, and accompanied Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Assembly, to Nicolás Maduro’s presidential nomination. Heavily criticized for her lack of experience, she now will not only have diplomatic immunity, but the preparation needed to take over the regime her father founded, following a long tradition of Latin-American nepotism.

The antecedents are clear, and the answer should be categorical: Chile should not support Venezuela’s nomination. However, I suspect Chile will support it, in yet another example of the predominant realpolitik.

Is the Chilean government willing to be the only one on this continent to vote against the nomination? Clearly not. “Latin-American reintegration” was a costly process. We live under the delusion that we are very well liked in the region and like to be part of the crowd, especially when it’s a progressive cause.

The Bachelet administration is very comfortable navigating this terrain, especially in light of its strategy to prioritize its relationship with Argentina and Brazil over the Pacific Alliance. Certainly, they cannot reject the nomination of one of the promoters of UNASUR, much less confront the San Paolo Forum, when the administration views Chile as a bridge between the two blocs.

Mexico, an ever-present actor, will probably support the nomination as well, and there are no guarantees with the Santos administration in Colombia.

What do we gain by not supporting the nomination? We’ll have a clear conscience, for starters, but we would also be standing up for democracy and a population who suffers through human rights abuses at the hands of a dictator. That should be enough, but unfortunately these ideals do not always prevail in the realm of foreign policy.

Chile’s rejection of the nomination runs the risk of raising a sensitive issue, much like Venezuela’s support of Bolivia’s maritime claim. We all remember when Hugo Chávez said he wanted to bathe in a Bolivian beach after quarreling with Ricardo Lagos. Former Chilean President Sebastián Piñera only confronted the Venezuelan regime in the final stages of his presidency. There simply does not seem to be enough political will to take a step that would run counter to current Chilean foreign policy.

The realpolitik, as harsh and cruel as it may be, will prevail over ideals yet again, and “diplomatic complicity” will ultimately triumph.

I would love to be wrong, and I hope to write another column soon recognizing my mistake. There is nothing more I would rather do.

Originally published in El Líbero.

Translated by Alex Clark-Youngblood.

Ángel Soto Ángel Soto

Ángel Soto is an historian and political scientist. He is a member of the Mont Pelerin Society and a professor at the University of the Andes, Chile. Follow @angelsotochile.