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Venezuela Expels Brazilian & Canadian Ambassadors, Its New PR in UNGA Dec 21

By Matthew Russell Lee, Photo

UNITED NATIONS, December 23 – Venezuela has sent to the UN a new Ambassador Samuel R. Moncada Acostam who spoke in the General Assembly on December 21 and whose credentials Secretary General Antonio Guterres cursorily accepted on December 19 in the shortest such ceremony UN insiders have yet seen. There was no handshake; a curt "yo accepto" from Guterres before he shepherded the Venezuelans into his office. Periscope here, Alamy photo here. Minutes later, he exchanged pleasantries with Poland's new Ambassador to the UN Joanna Wronecka. Photo here. Now Venezuela has expelled as persona non grata the Brazilian Ambassador to Caracas, Ruy Pereira, and Canadian charge d'affaires Craib Kowalik. It is not always easier to get answers from the Canadian government - click here - but we expect to have more on this. On December 22, the US State Department has issued this statement: "The United States condemns the illegitimate Constituent Assembly’s continued attacks on Venezuelan democracy.  On December 20, it passed a decree to effectively ban certain political opposition parties from participating in the 2018 presidential election.  The Venezuelan people deserve better.  The U.S. calls for respect for the Venezuelan constitution and the will of the Venezuelan people through the democratically elected National Assembly.  Venezuela must have free and fair presidential elections in 2018." Back on November 7 when Inner City Press went to the UN's 38th floor for Argentina President Mauricio Macri's 5:30 meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, it expected that Guterres would issue a read-out afterward, as he should. But he did not. Instead, Argentine foreign minister Jorge Faurie spoke, bragging that there would be a UN Security Council meeting about Venezuela on November 13, with OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro being heard. Now on December 11, after Nikki Haley cited Venezuela along with Syria in the Security Council's North Korea meeting in the morning, the US State Department has just put out this: "The United States condemns President Maduro’s threat to ban opposition parties from participating in next year’s presidential elections. The Venezuelan people deserve the right to express their views and consent to governance through a free and fair democratic process that is open to all candidates.  A presidential election cannot be legitimate if candidates and parties cannot freely participate. The Venezuelan government and members of the political opposition are scheduled to meet on December 15 in the Dominican Republic to discuss the 2018 presidential elections’ timeline and processes.  We call on the Government of Venezuela to agree to a timeline that allows for free, fair, transparent, and internationally observed presidential elections. We continue to call on the Venezuelan government to immediately open a humanitarian channel to receive medicine and food assistance, to release political prisoners, to disband the illegal Constituent Assembly, and to respect the democratically elected National Assembly." Meanwhile at the UN, Inner City Press asked what will happen with the chairmanship of the General Assembly's Fourth Committee. Previously, Inner City Press has obtained the Concept Note, full copy here via Patreon, which states: "Venezuela has been in a state of escalating political, economic, and social crisis since April, when anti-government protests left more than 120 dead.  Even after mass protests subsided, the situation in Venezuela continues to worsen as the country suffers from acute shortages of basic food and medicine.  In August, President Maduro installed the widely criticized Constituent Assembly, whose legitimacy has been seriously questioned.  The Constituent Assembly has since claimed supreme power and overruled the democratically-elected National Assembly.  In September, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein reported that Venezuelan security forces may have committed “crimes against humanity” in dealing with protestors and called for an international investigation.  In October, the Venezuelan government held gubernatorial elections amidst allegations of widespread fraud and impropriety in the voting process. Objective: This meeting will provide an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts and expert perspectives on the deteriorating political, economic, and social situation in Venezuela, and its potential humanitarian impact on the region.  It will also provide an opportunity to discuss the role the international community and regional organizations can play in seeking a political solution and facilitating humanitarian access to those affected by the tensions.  Context When preventative efforts fail and national authorities do virtually nothing to prevent the suffering of people from worsening violence, the human and socio-economic consequences can be severe.  Displacement is often the byproduct of internal unrest and human rights abuses and violations can be exacerbated by an unstable economy with hyper-inflation, acute scarcity of food, medicine, and other basic goods.  Over the past six months, over a half a million Venezuelans have fled to Colombia and countries in the region in search of food, medicine, and economic opportunities no longer available in Venezuela.  Venezuela's neighbors lack the resources and capacity to absorb this influx of displaced people and exposes the vulnerable to human trafficking and sexual exploitation.  As the Venezuelan economy continues to crumble, the situation will likely only worsen, especially as the country is at risk of defaulting on its debt.  The international community needs to work collectively to address the unfolding crisis and its humanitarian impact in Venezuela and beyond before it worsens and potentially develops into a threat to international peace and security.  In order to provide Security Council members with a better understanding of Venezuela’s challenges, speakers will address the implications of the profound political crisis; the deteriorating social, economic, humanitarian situation, and potential displacement crisis; and rule of law, corruption, and human rights violations and abuses, in particular those involving the use of excessive force and arbitrary detentions against protestors and other democratic actors.  Council members may wish to consider how the United Nations can use existing tools and -- where appropriate -- employ new mechanisms to prevent further violence and a potential humanitarian crisis from spreading. Panelists: Luis Almagro, Organization of American States Secretary-General, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Joseph Cornelius Donnelly, Caritas International, Julio Henriquez, Foro Penal. Format: Following introductory remarks by the United States and Italy and the panelists, members of the Security Council will be invited to take the floor and are encouraged to speak and ask questions for no more than five minutes each. All member states as well as permanent observers and non-governmental organizations accredited to the United Nations are invited to attend.  Interpretation will be provided in all official languages of the United Nations.  The Arria will be open to the press. Monday, November 13, 2017, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m., ECOSOC Chamber." Inner City Press, unlike other correspondent, can only reach the ECOSOC stakeout with a minder of the UN Department of Public Information run by Alison Smale, due to pursuing UN corruption. We'll have more on this. At noon on November 9, Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Innner City Press: The meeting with [Mauricio] Macri, the President of Argentina, they gave an extensive readout afterwards.  Was it accurate? Spokesman:  "I'm not able to speak to that." Why not? Why is Guterres so untransparent? He was in Lisbon for three days, justified by a 15 minute speech there. His UN is a circus, still engaged in censorship. We'll have more on this. On October 30, there was a delay. Then suddenly, instead of Sweden, Guterres rushed in with Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza. He did a fast and perfunctory handshake and rushed into his office with Arreaza. An hour later, Canada's foreign minister Chrystia Freeland bragged how she and her Peruvian counterpart Ricardo Luna Mendoza had met with Guterres about Venezuela. Guterres, unlike his predecessor, issued no read-outs, entirely untransparent. And what is he accomplishing? Based on Cameroon, nothing. When Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza took questions at the UN after meeting Secretary General Antonio Guterres, he focused on the new US sanctions announced earlier that day. Inner City Press, covering the UN, asked about the Guyana land dispute - and he said, yes, it was discussed, the process continued. Guterres' canned readout said: "The Secretary-General took note of the assessment of the Venezuelan Government regarding the situation in the country. The Secretary-General reiterated his view that a political solution based on dialogue and compromise between the Government and the opposition is essential, and urgent, to address the challenges faced by the country in a context of respect for rule of law and human rights.  He expressed support for ongoing regional efforts and the work of the international facilitators who are assisting the parties in trying to reactivate a process of negotiation. The Secretary-General and Minister Arreaza also discussed the Good Offices Process on the border controversy between Guyana and Venezuela." Venezuela was the topic for the first time of a UN Security Council "Any Other Business" meeting on May 17, right after another closed door meeting on Somalia and Eritrea. The title of the meeting is “the situation in Venezuela and efforts by regional organizations to resolve the crisis per Chapter VIII of the UN Charter" and the briefer will be not USg Jeffrey Feltman but his Assistant, ASG Miroslav Jenca. The request, as announced by US state media, was by the US Mission to the UN. This comes hours after that Mission declined, at least as of this report, to answer on the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization helping North Korea with patent filings for the production of sodium cyanide, a violation of UN sanctions. (After that, the president of the Security Council for May said he was UNaware of WIPO, whose North Korea work is right on its website.) It is important that the UN system be held to account, to end both corruption and censorship - and as noted below, its impunity for bringing cholera to Haiti, while being cited offering help on cholera in Venezuela. Back on May 2 when US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Michael Fitzpatrick took press questions about Venezuela, as reflected by the transcript, he called Nicolas Maduro's plans for a constituent assembly "corporatist" and Venezuela's plan to stop attending Organization of American States meetings a "step backward for themselves." He chided the government for not accept help "even from the UN" for medical issues (the UN, one noted, introduced cholera to Haiti.) Fitzpatrick said the US has been using the OAS its way to be in contact with Venezuela, given the lack of an exchange of ambassadors. The moderator called in order on Reuters, EFE and Bloomberg, then CNN en Espanol and CBS; Fitzpatrick declined to say if Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would attend the planned ministerial meeting of the OAS, saying the date and location have not yet been selected.  Back on April 20 after US Vice President Mike Pence announced that Donald Trump will attend ASEAN and related meetings this November, the State Department held a half-hour telephone press briefing by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy. Responding to a mere five questions, Murphy began with Voice of America, answered a Malaysian outlet's question about visas to the US from that country and then told Reuters the US will continue its freedom of navigation operations. The issue of human rights, raised this week in the UN Security Council session by Ambassador Nikki Haley, was not addressed, though a question was taken about the Philippines anti-drug controversies. Even of the five questions, many were deferred to others in consular affairs or the Department of Defense. As to the UN,  early reports on possible Trump administration budget cuts have triggered push-back by former State Department staffers, some using pseudonymous Twitter accounts.

  Back on March 2 holdover Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Ambassador William Brownfield on the record insisted that the US' relationship with the United Nations is excellent. He cited an upcoming UN conference later this month at which he said he will be representing the United States. We'll see.

  Meanwhile on March 1, despite the billions of dollars the US gives to the UN, the UN website was down for hours, no one seemed to care. At the UN, the Department of Public Information under Cristina Gallach used public funds, one quarter from the US, for a training to tell DPI-accredited NGOs that Detroit, Michigan is a "third rate city" in "flyover country;" DPI had already evicted and continues to restrict the investigative Inner City Press which alone reported on the dissing of Detroit, and other UN corruption.

On US inauguration day on January 20 at the US Mission to the UN the photos of Obama, Biden, Kerry and Samantha Power came down. As of February 17 they have not been replaced.
  But as elsewhere an "Alt USUN" Twitter account continues in a parallel online universe the views of Power, most recently calling out new Ambassador Nikki Haley for only attending three of 13 UN Security Council meetings, on Ukraine, ISIS and Israel - Palestine.

  Fair enough. But how many meetings did Samantha Power attend? And after the Israel - Palestine meeting Nikki Haley took questions at the Security Council stakeout, not pre-screened by Power's spokesman Kurtis Cooper - who remains at the US Mission, tweeting, along with many others.

  In fact, Isobel Coleman who did nothing when the DC-based whistleblower protection group Government Accountability Project wrote to her about the UN's eviction of the investigative Press, here, still as of February 17 lists herself as the US representative on UN reform. Is it true?

   In the UN itself, Obama and Hillary Clinton nominee Jeffrey Feltman has gotten his UN contract extended. Inner City Press first reported, from multiple sources, that Feltman sought this so that his UN pension would hit the five year vesting dateline. The UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric called Inner City Press' question, and by implication Inner City Press, "despicable." Or is that, deplorable?

  Meanwhile Voice of America, which was shown under the US Freedom of Information Act to have asked the UN to throw out the investigative Press, has now asked about Jared Kushner (video via here) and asked the UK about Nikki Haley's inexperience. Like we said, an alternative universe.

  Other former State Department officials like Bathsheba Crocker wring their hands about changes in foreign policy. But what did they do, when the UN killed 10,000 plus people in Haiti with cholera? They had their time to try to improve the UN, and largely failed. It's time to #MoveOn.


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