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Panama gets nod for U.N. Security Council spot

Thu., Nov. 2, 2006

UNITED NATIONS – Ending a two-week standoff, Venezuela and Guatemala on Wednesday bowed out of the race for Latin America’s seat on the U.N. Security Council and chose Panama as a compromise candidate.

The contest had become a protracted battle between Guatemala, backed by the United States, and Venezuela, which portrayed itself as a challenger to U.S. dominance in the U.N. Guatemala led in 47 rounds of voting but was not able to clinch the two-thirds majority needed to win the seat. On Wednesday evening, foreign ministers from Venezuela and Guatemala met in New York to resolve the deadlock.

“We needed about 15 more votes, and we were not clear where we would get them,” Guatemalan Foreign Minister Gert Rosenthal said. “There were two options: to continue or to bow to reality. We opted for the latter.”

Rosenthal said he was “personally very disappointed” that Guatemala was not able to claim the seat despite having the majority of support, but both countries agreed that Panama was a good compromise.

“It’s a country where South America meets Central America,” he said. “We want to put divisions between the north and the south to rest, and so choosing Panama makes sense.”

Venezuela, which supplies subsidized oil to many countries in the region, was thought to be the front-runner until Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez called President Bush “the devil” and described the U.N. as “useless” in a speech to the General Assembly in September.


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