Venezuela President Maduro, Cuba President Diaz-Canel, and U.S. President Trump duel at the UN
The Latin American Advisor (Advisor), a business daily publication of the Inter-American Dialogue asked me to comment on “What Did Leaders Accomplish at the United Nations?” published October 3, 2018. I was one of three individuals asked to provide comments in 250 words or less. The other commenters were Peter Hakim, member of the Advisor board and president emeritus of the Inter-American Dialogue, and Eduardo Ulibarri, socio-political analyst and former ambassador of Costa Rica to the United Nations.
The Advisor posed its question in the context of the following:
“World leaders gathered last week in New York for the U.N. General Assembly meeting, which included a surprise appearance by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro who blasted the United States, saying it “wants to continue giving orders to the world.” Also during the meeting, U.S. President Donald Trump echoed his “America First” policy and on the sidelines said Maduro could be easily toppled in a coup. Meantime, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel made his first speech to the General Assembly, siding with Venezuela, denouncing the U.S. trade embargo against the island and saying the world’s problems are the fault of capitalism, not socialism. What was accomplished at the General Assembly meeting? Will the speeches extend beyond discourse and lead to concrete actions in the region? What was the significance of Maduro’s and Díaz-Canel’s participation?” (Featured Q&A of the Advisor)
Limited to only 250 words, I was not able to elaborate fully in my answers to all of the questions raised. However, I managed to make the following points:
I pointed out that “The UNGA provides a platform for all governments to place their priority concerns on the global agenda.” And, in that context, I stated that “It is not surprising that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro seized the opportunity to respond to the U.S. President who in the past had suggested the possibility of military action to topple Maduro, and his words (President Trump’s) at the UNGA could be interpreted as encouraging a military coup.” I also emphasized that “Any legitimate use of outside military force without UN Security Council approval would be a violation of international law.”
While drawing attention to the legal necessity of UN Security Council approval under Article 42 of the UN Charter for any legitimate use of force against Venezuela, I am cognizant of President Trump’s statement at the UN with regard to the possibility of a military coup against the Maduro regime and the U.S. president’s past declaration that the U.S. had not ruled out military force to topple the Venezuelan president. The current state of policy-making in the Trump administration, in particular the mindset of those in the Administration formulating foreign policy, suggest that the hemisphere should be very wary about President Trump’s intentions towards Venezuela.
In my comments to the Advisor, I drew attention to what I believe would be the maximum response we should expect from the UN Security Council on Venezuela and the potential impact of Maduro’s speech on U.N Member States. I noted that “No UN Security Council action against the Maduro government, except perhaps the threat of sanctions, should be expected, and Maduro’s speech will have very little impact on the majority of U.N. members.”
In response to the question on Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, I suggested that it should have been no surprise that the new Cuban president would take his first opportunity on the world stage to give some indication of Cuba’s policy under his leadership. It should also not be surprising that he would renounce the U.S. embargo against his country, the most important issue in U.S.-Cuba relations. In this context, I suggested that “Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel had to seize his first opportunity to pronounce himself on the world stage and to call for a lifting of the U.S. embargo for which there is almost universal support in the UN. It was also an opportunity to remind of the roll-back of President Obama’s rapprochement with the Cuban government.”
Also, no surprise when Cuban President Diaz-Canel declared his support for Venezuela at the UNGA. I pointed to the history of U.S. military interventions in the hemisphere, including against Fidel Castro’s government, as adding to the concerns Cuba and Venezuela might have and why Cuba, as Venezuela’s closest friend in the region would side with Maduro. I said “Cuba, which has been Venezuela’s strongest supporter, not unexpectedly sided with Venezuela, considering the historical precedents of U.S. military intervention in the hemisphere and Cuba’s own historical experience with U.S.-supported attempted military intervention.”
There were not enough words allotted to expound on President Trump’s “America first” policy, but I made clear that his ill-guided approach to foreign policy abrogates America’s responsibility as leader of the free world. In Trump’s ill-conceived ideology, the love and commitment to one’s country is inconsistent with one’s global responsibility. Trump’s philosophy of “America first”, meaning only what America wants matters, contradicts the norms of international relations and comity among nations. His administration’s disdain for internatiol norms is consistent with actions taken by his administration to destroy or marginalize multilateral organizations and international institutions which were created by the U.S. and its partners to ensure normative behavior among nations and prevent chaos in global affairs. I said, “It seems an anomaly if not an outright contradiction for the leader of the free world, the President of the United States, to conceptualize an “American First” policy which rejects globalism but expects to lead the global community and multilateral institutions to solve global problems. It is also illogical to suggest that “patriotism” and “globalism” are mutually exclusive.”
In a future article on TWP I will offer my views on the Caribbean governments’ contributions to the 2018 UN General Assembly.
© 2018 Curtis A. Ward/The Ward Post