U.S. officials walked out of a United Nations arms forum on May 28 in a protest against Venezuela assuming the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), which is decided on a rotating basis.
The Trump administration, in the meantime, has continued to step up sanctions against illegitimate dictator Nicolás Maduro. The United States hasn’t ruled out military action to remove what it and dozens of other nations believe was a rigged 2018 election.
As Venezuela took up the one-month presidency of the Geneva talks, U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood left the session and announced a “boycott” while Maduro Ambassador Jorge Valero chairs the forum. In 2018, the United States similarly protested when Syria took the chair.
“We have to try to do what we can to prevent these types of states from presiding over international bodies,” Wood told reporters.
“Clearly, when you have regimes like [Syria’s Bashar] Assad regime and the Maduro regime presiding over this body, there is something fundamentally wrong with how we are conducting our business. And we need to examine that,” he said.
A representative of Venezuela’s legitimate interim President Juan Guaidó—who is recognized internationally and has the backing of more than 50 nations—should assume the seat, Wood said. On Twitter, he noted the regime is already “dead; it just doesn’t want to lay down.”
A photo posted on Twitter by Wood showed the seat meant for the United States was left unoccupied. He said the seat will remain vacant for the entire four-week-long presidency.
The US chair in the CD chamber will be unoccupied during the former Maduro regime’s four-week CD presidency. pic.twitter.com/KgGJjisrGk
— Robert Wood (@USAmbCD) May 28, 2019
Latin American delegations that recognize Guaidó, including Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, stayed away from the conference, as well. Syria and Russia denounced what they claimed was politicization.
Maduro’s ambassador also condemned the move at a news briefing. In the meantime, Maduro maintains control over Venezuela’s state institutions.
“We regret that the representative of the United States and its docile allies continue to bring to this forum matters that are outside the mandate of the CD,” Valero told reporters. “It is not a forum for coup-mongering.”
Weeks ago, President Donald Trump said the United States will continue to stand with the people of Venezuela “for however long it takes.” U.S. officials have also continued to offer their support to Guaidó.
After a great rally in Panama City Beach, Florida – I am returning to Washington, D.C. with @SenRickScott and Senator @MarcoRubio, discussing the terrible abuses by Maduro. America stands with the GREAT PEOPLE of Venezuela for however long it takes! pic.twitter.com/KcBoNfEibv
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2019
Despite U.S. sanctions, Venezuela’s military top brass have largely ignored entreaties from Guaidó and Washington to go against Maduro. A little more than 1,000 troops have defected, mostly to Colombia and Brazil.
National security adviser John Bolton recently posted on Twitter a photo of Guaidó speaking to a crowd of Venezuelans.
“Juan Guaido and the people of Venezuela continue to overcome Maduro’s efforts to halt the march towards prosperity and democracy,” Bolton said on May 27. “Maduro’s dependency on foreign security services to block the internet has not changed the determination of the people.”
On May 24, Brazil’s foreign ministry said Maduro will be unable to reverse the democratic transition happening now inside Venezuela, but noted that the military will need to support that change as well.
“The process that is in place since January … is irreversible with all the international support for a democratic transition. There’s no way back to the Maduro regime staying in power indefinitely,” Ernesto Araujo said.
Reuters contributed to this report.