Venezuela: Two Competing Draft Resolutions*
Tomorrow (28 February), the Security Council is expected to hold a meeting on the situation in Venezuela. Council members may vote on two competing draft resolutions, produced by the US and Russia, respectively. At press time, it seems that the US draft will be vetoed, and the Russian draft will not obtain enough votes.
This is the third Council meeting on this issue in just over a month as a result of the escalation of the political crisis. On 23 January, the president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, announced his assumption of the presidency of Venezuela, challenging the legitimacy of President Nicolás Maduro, who had been sworn in on 10 January. The Council met yesterday following the rising tensions at Venezuelan border crossings with Brazil and Colombia, where the Venezuelan government blocked aid sent by the US and other countries.
Briefing the Council yesterday, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo said that according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), four individuals were killed and 64 were injured on 22-23 February near the Brazilian border, most by gunshot. OHCHR also received reports implicating pro-government armed elements in the attacks against protestors.
At yesterday’s meeting, Russia proposed press elements similar to elements agreed by Council members on Haiti last week, expressing concern about violent demonstrations and reaffirming their commitment to working with the people and government of Venezuela. The elements were deemed unacceptable by the US and other Council members.
Council members have been divided between those who recognise Guaidó’s legitimacy and those supporting Maduro. This dynamic has been reflected in previous Council meetings, including the meeting on 26 January, when a procedural vote was held to determine the introduction of a proposed new agenda item, “Situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”. Russia wanted discussion of the situation in Venezuela to be held under “Threats to international peace and security”, an existing agenda item; in his remarks, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia referred to Article 2(4) of the UN Charter. Nine members (Belgium, the Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Kuwait, Peru, Poland, the UK and the US) supported holding the meeting under the new agenda item, while four members voted against it (China, Equatorial Guinea, Russia and South Africa) and two abstained (Côte d’Ivoire and Indonesia). Since nine affirmative votes are required to support a procedural motion and the veto does not apply, the new agenda item was adopted. Already then, the countries that had voted against holding the meeting under the new agenda item emphasised the importance of respecting the principles of national sovereignty and non-interference. Similar dynamics were reflected in the discussion of the two draft resolutions that are expected to be put to a vote tomorrow.
After discussion with other members holding similar positions on Venezuela, the US circulated its draft to all 15 Council members in early February. During the negotiations, changes were made to accommodate the concerns of elected members that wanted to preclude the possibility of military intervention. In this context, language regarding the determination of the situation of Venezuela as a threat to international peace and security (based on article 39 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter) was replaced by language expressing “deep concern about the actions of a regime that have caused an economic collapse, forcing millions of Venezuelans to leave their country as refugees and migrants in search of food, basic medicines, and opportunities in other countries in the region”. Moreover, in three different paragraphs, the word “peaceful” was added, including in reference to supporting “the peaceful restoration of democracy and rule of law in Venezuela”.
Another sticking-point in the draft was whether to refer to dialogue initiatives. In the end, the draft calls for a political process leading to presidential elections. At the request of at least one member, language was also added referring to “subsequent peaceful, inclusive, and credible initiatives to address the prolonged crisis in the country”. References in the initial draft to “corrupt economic policies” and “corrupt government officials” were deleted; instead the version in blue contains a broader reference to “the fight against corruption”.
The draft in blue notes “the constitutional authority of the democratically elected National Assembly”, considers the 20 May 2018 election “neither free nor fair”, and calls 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”, for which it requests the good offices of the Secretary-General. The draft further stresses “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 in the entirety of the territory of Venezuela in accordance with humanitarian principles”.
The Russian draft, which Council members discussed today, expresses concern “over the threats to use force against the territorial integrity and political independence” of Venezuela, as well as “over attempts to intervene in matters which are essentially within [its] domestic jurisdiction”. It urges the settlement of the current situation through peaceful means and supports all initiatives aimed at reaching a political solution among Venezuelans. The draft also recalls that international assistance should be provided with the consent of, and on the basis of an appeal by, the government of Venezuela.
Post-Script (5 March 2019): On 28 February, the Security Council met (S/PV.8476) and voted on the two draft resolutions. The US draft (S/2019/186) was vetoed by China and Russia. South Africa also voted against it. It received nine affirmative votes (Belgium, the Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Kuwait, Peru, Poland, the UK and the US), while three members abstained (Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and Indonesia). The Russian draft (S/2019/190) failed to garner enough votes to be adopted; four members voted in favour of the draft (China, Russia, Equatorial Guinea, and South Africa), seven members voted against it (Belgium, France, Germany, Peru, Poland, the UK and the US), and four members abstained (Côte d’Ivoire, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia and Kuwait).