SPOILER. Over on Bolton Watch Michael Roston does an excellent job blogging the race between Venezuela and Guatemala for a seat on the UN Security Council.

So far, there have been more than 22 rounds of voting, with neither country winning the necessary two-thirds support from the 192 UN member states of the General Assembly. The United States is strongly backing Guatemala, (or, more accurately, strongly opposing Venezuela) for one of the Latin American seats on the Council. And in doing so, the United States has shown that its influence at the world body is remarkably limited. As Roston points out, Venezuela has consistently pulled at least 70 countries in the balloting. And for their part, the Guatemalan delegation does not appreciate being branded the �American candidate.� Nevertheless, it looks like Venezuela will be blocked and a compromise candidate will emerge from Latin America.

This is a good thing.

Lots of folks may not think it all that terrible should Hugo Chavez have a seat at the Council. After all, he's expressed what 61 percent of Americans now believe: Bush stinks. But Venezuela is what UN insiders call a �spoiler," a state that often works to disrupt concensus achieved by other member states. Should Venezuela win a seat on the Security Council, it could be a terrible nuisance to some of the important human rights and security work at the UN. For example, when the Security Council passes a resolution authorizing targeted individual sanctions (as it has for Darfur, and recently did on North Korea) all 15 members must agree to the list of targeted individuals. Per Security Council procedure, any member of the Council can place a hold on the name of an individual, and severely disrupt the sanctions process.

There are other instances when unanimity is required, and in the name of blustery anti-Americanism, Venezuela could do some real damage to the Security Council. Progressives who believe in a strong international system should root against its membership.

--Mark Leon Goldberg

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