(CNSNews.com) – The U.N. Security Council witnessed several unusual moments Wednesday, as Vice President Mike Pence told the Maduro regime’s ambassador, “with all due respect,” that he shouldn’t be there, and Russia’s U.N. envoy said that if the Trump administration really wants to “make America great again” it should stop interfering in other nations’ affairs.
Pence traveled to New York to urge the world body to revoke the credentials of the Maduro regime’s ambassador, recognize Venezuela’s National Assembly head Juan Guaidó as the country’s interim president, and “seat the representative of the free Venezuelan government in this body without delay.”
Looking over at the diplomat seated behind the Venezuela nameplate, he told Samuel Moncada, “With all due respect, Mr. Ambassador, you shouldn’t be here. You should return to Venezuela and tell Nicolás Maduro that his time is up. It’s time for him to go.”
Moncada looked up from his phone, grimaced, shook his head, and mouthed something unintelligible.
Urging the U.N. to live up to its founding mission and Charter, Pence said the U.S. was preparing a resolution recognizing the legitimacy of Guaidó’s government, and urged all U.N. member-states to support the measure.
“The United States is calling on the United Nations to live up to its very purpose,” he said. “Reject the failed leadership of Nicolás Maduro, and stand with us, stand with nations across the world and across this hemisphere to help the people of Venezuela forge a brighter future.”
‘Lawless, thuggish violation of international law’
Pence left the chamber immediately after delivering his statement, and Moncada had to wait until near the end of the session to respond. (Venezuela was invited to participate, but as a non-member of the Security Council it did not slot into the standard speaking order arrangement.)
It fell to the Maduro regime’s close ally, Russia, to respond first, and Ambassador Vassily Nebenzya began on a combative note.
For protocol reasons the council’s rotating president, Christoph Heusgen of Germany, had not set a time limit on Pence’s statement, which ran about 18 minutes. But as he gave Nebenzya the floor he indicated that he was back on the clock.
In a bid to keep speeches to close to five minutes in length, Heusgen is using a large hourglass during his month at the helm.
The Russian envoy told Heusgen he could turn his hourglass over as often as he wished, “but I will take as much time as I need to.” He then spoke for about 12 minutes.
Nebenzya reproached Pence for leaving the chamber before hearing what other member-states had to say.
He said the situation in Venezuela does not pose a threat to “international peace and security” – the Security Council’s primary responsibility – but that external actors were posing a threat to peace and security inside Venezuela, through sanctions and political interference.
“The United States has insistently destabilized the situation in Venezuela. They have artificially provoked a crisis in this country in order to overthrow a legitimately elected leader and replace him with their own pawn.”
Nebenzya said he did not want to comment on the “tone” of Pence’s remarks directed at Moncada, but that efforts to replace duly-appointed ambassadors and to take over diplomatic properties amounted to “lawless, thuggish violation of international law.”
“We call on the United States to once again recognize that the Venezuelan people and other peoples have the right to determine their own future,” he said.
“If you want to ‘make America great again’ – and we’re all sincerely interested in seeing that – stop interfering in the affairs of other states. You will only gain respect from that.”
When Moncada was given the floor, he accused the U.S. and Britain of conducting a program of economic destruction against his country.
“We must stop this war of Donald Trump, and this Security Council must live up to its responsibility, and live up to its mandate guaranteeing that Venezuela can enjoy its right to peace.”
Speaking to reporters outside the chamber, Pence said it was yet to be determined whether the measure being drafted by the U.S. Mission would be a Security Council or General Assembly resolution.
Asked why he felt such an initiative would attract sufficient support, he replied that “momentum is on the side of the suffering people of Venezuela.”
The U.S. and 53 other nations, mostly in Latin America and Europe, have recognized Guaidó as interim president, pending new elections.
Pence noted the support of those 54 countries, as well as of the G7 industrialized nations and Organization of American States.
“We’re going to be reaching out to nations across the world to join us in this resolution and to have the United Nations speak on behalf of the people of Venezuela,” he said.
To pass, a Security Council resolution requires the support of at least nine of the 15 members, and no veto by a permanent member.
Russia, possibly joined by China, would almost certainly veto the envisaged resolution – as they did last February, when faced with a U.S.-drafted resolution calling for a “peaceful political process” leading to free elections in Venezuela. (A competing Russia-drafted measure failed the same day, but did not garner the nine required votes so no veto was necessary.)
General Assembly resolutions usually need a simple majority to pass, but those relating to peace and security are in a category requiring a two-thirds majority – or 129 votes if all 193 member-states are present and voting.