The United States walked out of the Conference on Disarmament on Tuesday to protest against Venezuela assuming the rotating presidency of the UN-sponsored forum – as it did a year ago when Syria took the chair.
The Trump administration, which has stepped up sanctions against the government of Nicolas Maduro, has not ruled out military action to remove what it and dozens of other nations consider an illegitimate government.
As Venezuela took up the one-month presidency of the Geneva talks, US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood left the session and announced a “boycott” while Maduro ambassador Jorge Valero chairs it.
“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 the Assad regime (of Syria) 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 Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, the “interim leader”, should assume the seat, Wood said. Guaido invoked the country’s constitution in January to declare himself interim president after saying Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.
Valero blasted the Trump administration for the move on Tuesday, calling it “ridiculous”.
Valero called Trump as a “war-mongering racist”, insisting that only Wood walked out on Tuesday.
“The representative of the Donald Trump government remained isolated,” Valero told reporters.
“What he did was ridiculous,” he added. “It’s a paradox that a nuclear power … was defeated today by a small country such as Venezuela,” Valero added. “In summary, today David beat Goliath.”
Latin American delegations including Argentina, Brazil and Chile who also recognise Guaido stayed away from the Conference. Syria and Russia denounced what they called its politicisation.
More than $4.5bn in Venezuelan assets have been frozen or confiscated under US-led sanctions that are crippling vital imports of food and medicines, Valero added.
Maduro maintains control over Venezuela’s state institutions, calls Guaido a puppet of Washington and blames US sanctions for the country’s economic crisis.
Millions of Venezuelans have left the country in recent years, fleeing hyperinflation, unemployment and food and medicine shortages.
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