Monday, October 16, 2006

D-day for Venezuela and Guatemala in bid to win Security Council seat

The Guatemalan delegation at today's voting for temporary U.N. Security Council seats. (Image via Monsters and Critics).

***[Please scroll down for updates to the original post.]***

Today the U.N. General Assembly will vote on which country will take over Latin America’s temporary seat on the Security Council. The two main candidates- Guatemala and Venezuela- have been fighting tooth and nail in order to gain support from member states. The winning candidate requires a minimum 2/3 majority vote from the Council which may be very difficult (hence, Chile abstaining from voting), and opens the door for a compromise candidate to get the seat.

Update (1:50pm): After three rounds of voting, Guatemala leads Venezuela but has so far fallen short of gaining 2/3 majority. (Link via Reuters).

Update (2:00pm): Little has changed after four rounds of voting with Guatemala still leading but without a minimum 2/3 majority. The door for a compromise candidate has been blown wide open. (Link via Guardian UK).

Update (2:20pm): According to Venezuela's El Universal, Guatemala led in the third round 110-76. Assuming 186 members voted in the subsequent rounds, then the winner will need at least 124 votes in favor in order to win and the tiny number of abstentions (around 6, I think) may not be enough to produce a winner.

Update (3:25pm): The Security Council has been at an impasse for over an hour now. Reuters has concluded that the biggest loser so far would be Hugo Chavez since Venezuela was very vocal in its campaign to get the Security Council seat. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton jokingly compared the impasse to the 2000 U.S. Presedential election.

Gone unnoticed in the coverage of the vote has been which country has the best chance as being a compromise choice for the seat. Here's a brief list of who has represented Latin America and the Caribbean since 1998, according to Wikipedia:
2006- Argentina, Peru
Argentina, Brazil
2004- Brazil, Chile
2003- Chile, Mexico
2002- Colombia, Mexico
Colombia, Jamaica
2000- Argentina, Jamaica
Argentina, Brazil
1998- Brazil, Costa Rica
Venezuela hasn't been on the Security Council since 1993 while Guatemala has never served on the Council.

Update (3:40pm): I stand corrected as BBC News reports that Costa Rica, Panama, and Uruguay are possible compromise candidates.

Update (3:50pm): Click here for a live webcast of the voting, now in its fifth round. (Link via United Nations).

Update (4:15pm): Oh. My. God. The fifth round ended with in a tie between Guatemala and Venezuela! Each received 93 votes with one member chosing Mexico. On to a sixth round!

Update (4:45pm):
The latest round of voting has the gap closing between Guatemala and Venezuela with the former leading by less than 10 votes. (Cuba and Mexico each received 1 vote). In accordance to U.N. rules, only Guatemala and Venezuela are eligible in the next round.

The U.N. has a live webcast of the voting via this link.

Update (5:05pm): Eighth round results- Guatemala 102, Venezuela 85. A 9th round of voting is now underway.

Update (5:30pm): 9th round results-
Guatemala 107, Venezuela 81. The gap has barely moved as 4 members abstained. Guatemala missed the 2/3 majority by 21 votes.

Barring a major shift the voting will continue into the evening. And from the looks of things the U.N. cafeteria will be working overtime to provide coffee to the delegates tonight.

Update (6:35pm): 10
th round results were announced at the top of the hour- Guatemala 110, Venezuela 77. Guatemala has missed the target by 15 votes.

Mercifully, the head of today's proceedings adjourned voting until tomorrow at 10am.

One of the delegates (country unknown) interviewed after today's adjournment estimates that if the vote isn't decided by the first round tomorrow then it will be yet another long day of voting.

The Argentine delegate is interviewed and he discounts any possibility of a compromise candidate and estimates that voting tomorrow will not take long. He says that his country will keep supporting Venezuela's bid along with the other Mercosur countries.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton points out that the 1st and last rounds had the same vote tally. "I'm prepared for the long haul" said Bolton who view the voting as "9 defeats and a tie" for Venezuela. He refuses to consider the impasse as a "deadlock" and he bemoans those states who exploit this vote as a referndum on U.S. influence on the U.N.

The Mexican delegate admits that he's "conversating" with other delegates to see if a compromise can be found. The Chilean delegate says that their country's position in abstaining from voting remains that way and that delegates should "pause and reflect" to figure out what comes next. He also mentions that "anything could happen". "We respect both candidatures" said the Chilean delegate while the Mexican delegate noted that the change in government from Vicente Fox to Felipe Calderon may impede the possibility of Mexico being a compromise candidate.

The Guatemalan delegate doesn't believe that the U.S. pushed to hard in its favor and "resented" Venezuelan government claims that Guatemala would not represent an "independent voice" if elected. "We have no reason to step out of the race unilaterally" said the delegate who finds it "premature" that a compromise candidate is considered. He confessed that the U.S. and Guatemala do not have "identical interests" in Guatemala's bid for the Security Council since the U.S. is more concerned with stopping Venezuela's bid rather than seeing Guatemala win.

So what can we conclude from today's proceedings? Venezuela can be considered a big loser since they were unable to lead in any of the 10 rounds in spite of the hype and hoopla surrounding their bid. At the same time, the U.S.' rhetoric claiming that Guatemala had enough votes to win was untrue so they too ended on the losing end. The big winners may be member states who could be promised heaven and earth by either the U.S. or Venezuela if they change their vote. My personal hope is that a compromise candidate emerges and that may be more of a reality if subsequent rounds of voting remain relatively unchanged.

Image- CNN (U.N. Security Council vote on Iraq in 1999)

Links- Voice of America, International Herald Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Washington Post, Bloomberg

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Morning briefs: October 16

* Protests along the Argentina-Uruguay border (image) forced the shutdown of transit between those two countries.

* Argentina’s country risk has reached an all time low, which indicates that the economy is very healthy.

* A senior U.N. development official praised Peru’s efforts to take on numerous development projects; more than any other Latin American country.


Links- MercoPress (Uruguay), People’s Daily Online (China), BBC News

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Ecuadorians choose their next president

***[Scroll down for 4 updates to the original post]***

Yesterday we posted on stories from the international press on today’s election for Ecuador’s’ next president. Here are several headlines from the Ecuadorian media on today’s activities (unless otherwise indicated all articles are in Spanish):

* El Expreso mentions that electoral observers from the Organization of American States (OAS) have found no major irregularities and that “voting has been normal throughout the entire country” according to the head of the OAS observers-Rafael Bielsa. Yet El Mercurio said that Bielsa has been accused by supporters of frontrunner Rafael Correa of not begin impartial and of hiding voting irregularities.

* Bielsa’s claims may be incorrect as La Hora mentioned that there have been hundreds of complaints made on voting irregularities in major cities including insufficient ballots and voting precincts. Hoy Online corroborates by telling that ballots were burned in one provincial city.

* El Telégrafo said that over 200 people were arrested last night for drunkenness and consuming alcohol in public which means that they will not be able to vote today.

* El Universo points that 90,000 Ecuadorians in Spain went to the polls; this is the first presidential election that allows foreign-based Ecuadorians to vote. However, tensions ran high in the Spanish city of Murcia when a few voters clashed with police.

Update (6:00pm): a few more headlines out of Ecuador (all are in Spanish):

Update (7.45pm): CNN en Espanol reports that exit polls have Alvaro Noboa in 1st with 28.5%, Rafael Correa in 2nd with 26.5% and Leon Roldos in a distant third place. Noboa and Correa would face each other in a runoff since no candidate received a majority they would each.

However, Brazilian firm E-Vote has a statistical dead heat with Correa leading at 24.6% and Roldos in 2nd with 24.2%. Noboa isn't even in the top 3 according to E-Vote! (Link via Hoy Online).

If the CNN en Espanol data is correct, then the runoff would be a race to see who could best appeal to moderate voters since Correa and Noboa are on opposite poles of the political spectrum. Yet if the E-Vote data is correcct then the right may very well decide who would win. Perhaps Roldos may have a slight advantage since he's center-left while Correa is less moderate.

Update (8:30 pm): Okay, now I'm confused. El Universo says that E-Vote's data has Noboa and Correa in 1st and 2nd, respectively.

Update (11:45pm): Final update of the evening, folks. (All links are in Spanish).

  • The official results from Ecuador’s Electoral Tribunal can be seen here and will be updated during the evening. As of the time of this update Alvaro Noboa leads with 26.78%, followed by Rafael Correa with 22.42%, León Roldos with 15.93% and Gilmar Gutierrez with 15.64%. (59% of precincts reported).
  • Univision reports that Alvaro Noboa won the first round yet but will have to face Rafael Correa in a runoff. They show an interview given tonight by Noboa where he enthusiastically characterized Correa as a “friend of terrorism, friend of (Hugo) Chavez, (and a) friend of Cuba.” Correa, in the meantime, was briefly shown at a press conference calling for his supporters to be alert in pointing out “fraudulent” activities by his opposition.
  • Leon Roldos expressed his disappointment with his third place finish and was upset that voters “elected the candidates with the biggest checkbooks.”
  • Another candidate upset with her electoral finish was 5th place candidate Cynthia Viteri who quickly admitted defeat but not without vowing to be “alert, observant, and vigilant” for all Ecuadorians.
  • Gilmar Gutierrez was very pleased at being in the top 4 and alluded to Ecuador’s political instability by calling his campaign a “victory for democracy against coup supporters”.

That’s all for tonight. Tune in on Monday when we will look at the reactions to the election by the English-language, international press.

Links- El Universo, El Telégrafo, Hoy Online, La Hora, El Mercurio, El Expreso (all from Ecuador)

Image- El Comercio (Alvaro Noboa on the left and Rafael Correa on the right).

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