UN Chief Meets With Maduro Regime, Despite US Request to Deal Only With ‘Legitimate Guaidó Government’

By Patrick Goodenough | February 12, 2019 | 4:17am EST
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres meets with the Maduro regime’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, in New York on Monday, February 11, 2019. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. and 50 other nations have recognized Venezuela’s National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó as interim president, but in New York on Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres met with the leftist regime’s foreign minister, as his office continues to stress its cooperation with “the government of Venezuela.”

Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric issued a brief readout of the meeting between the secretary-general and “Jorge Arreaza, Minister of the People’s Power for Foreign Affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

“The secretary-general reaffirmed that his offer of good offices to both parties remains available for serious negotiation to help the country out of the present standoff for the benefit of the people of Venezuela,” Dujarric said.

For his part, Arreaza – who describes himself in his Twitter account as a “Militant-Socialist-Chavista-Bolivarian” – in a series of tweets thanked Guterres for receiving his delegation “despite his tight schedule.”

“Cooperation with the U.N. agencies is deepened,” Arreaza said. “Multilateralism has to be strengthened in order to defend the principles of the U.N. Charter: Peace, development and human rights.”

The U.S. is reportedly circulating a draft Security Council resolution calling for “the immediate start of a political process leading to free, fair and credible presidential elections, with international electoral observation, in line with Venezuela’s constitution.”

The draft calls on Guterres to “utilize his good offices” to push for such elections in the impoverished nation.

But when Arreaza was asked after his meeting Monday with the U.N. chief whether they had discussed the U.S.-drafted resolution calling for elections, he replied in the negative, adding, “We talked about issues that are really important for Venezuela – not propaganda.”

‘The time for dialogue with Maduro has long passed’

Guterres met with the regime’s foreign minister four days after U.S. special representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams said on behalf of the Trump administration, “We urge all involved to deal solely with the legitimate Guaidó government.”

“The time for dialogue with Maduro has long passed,” Abrams told reporters at the State Department. “Every day that Maduro remains in power is a day where political prisoners remain in jail, detainees are abused, and Venezuelans go without food and medicine.”

The U.S. last month recognized Guaidó as interim president in line with Venezuela’s constitution, a step that has also been taken by some 50 other countries. But the Security Council is deeply divided over the issue, with permanent members Russia and China blasting what they charge is interference in a sovereign nation’s affairs.

Aerial footage shows makeshift barricades erected by the regime armed forces, blocking a bridge at a key crossing on the Venezuela-Colombia border last week to prevent U.S. humanitarian aid from entering the troubled country. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Guterres’ spokesmen at daily press briefings have been cautious in their public statements on the issue, saying he was ready to use his “good offices” to help find a solution to the crisis, but also making clear that the “government of Venezuela” – that is, the Maduro regime which the U.S. and others call illegitimate – remains the party with which the U.N. cooperates.

Jan. 29: Asked whether there had been any talks between Guaidó and U.N. officials, Dujarric said he was unaware of any contacts. The issue of who represents a country was decided not by the secretary-general but by General Assembly “member-states themselves,” he added.

Jan. 31: When Guaidó in a public letter urged the U.N. to expand humanitarian operations in Venezuela, Dujarric said Guterres’ response was that while the U.N. was ready to do so, it “needs the consent and the cooperation of the government.”

And he reiterated that “recognizing governments is not for the secretariat, [but] for member-states.”

Feb. 1: Asked whether the U.N. views the situation in Venezuela as a humanitarian crisis, Dujarric expressed concern “about the continued suffering of the population” and said there was “an urgent need for increased humanitarian assistance.”

“We continue to work with the government of Venezuela within the existing framework on both humanitarian and development issues,” he said.

Feb. 6: Amid reports that the regime armed forces were blocking more than 50 metric tons of U.S. food and medicine aid at the Colombia border, Dujarric was asked whether the U.N. secretariat would “appeal the government to allow the entry of this aid.”

His reply: “Look, I think what is important is that humanitarian aid be depoliticized and that the needs of the people are really – should lead in terms of when and how humanitarian aid is used.”

Feb. 7: Asked once again about the regime blocking the aid, Dujarric stated that assistance should be “carried out in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.”

The U.N. has “agreements with the Venezuelan government” and is “working on urgent health, nutrition and protection needs,” he said.

“Is the secretary-general prepared to say straight out that the Maduro regime’s blocking of humanitarian aid desperately needed by the Venezuelan people is a violation of international humanitarian law?” Dujarric was asked.

“I think the secretary-general has said what he’s had to say on Venezuela,” he replied.

While Guterres has been at pains to be seen to be impartial – even while effectively siding with the side which the U.S. is urging the international community to shun – a U.N. human rights expert late last week ventured an opinion not likely to be welcomed by the regime.

Diego García-Sayán, the U.N.’s “special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers,” in a statement criticized the Maduro-friendly Venezuelan Supreme Court for imposing a travel ban preventing Guaidó from leaving the country, and for freezing his financial assets.

“The evidence suggests that the measures against Mr. Guaidó have not been adopted in accordance with constitutional requirements, normal legal procedures and international human rights standards,” said García-Sayán, a former Peruvian justice minister.

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