Venezuelan envoy lashes back after US walkout from UN body

Venezuela’s Ambassador Jorge Valero, President of the Conference on Disarmament, delivers a speech, during the Conference on Disarmament, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, May 28, 2019. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

GENEVA (AP) — Venezuela’s ambassador in Geneva mocked as “ridiculous” a U.S. walkout Tuesday from his chairmanship of the U.N.’s main disarmament body, launching barbs at President Donald Trump and laughing as he claimed a David-over-Goliath diplomatic victory over the United States.

Jorge Valero was reacting to the walkout by Washington’s ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, Robert Wood, which was the latest choreographed U.S. move to try to pressure Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government.

The U.S. and over 50 countries have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s president, but Maduro remains in power.

Valero spoke to reporters after taking the chair of the conference plenary, which prompted Wood to walk out and tell reporters that a “rogue state” had taken over the conference chairmanship.

Venezuela’s turn in the presidency follows in the alphabetical order of members, and right after the United States leadership. Wood said the U.S. will boycott Venezuela’s four-week presidency. He said a dozen countries from the Lima Group of mostly Latin American countries who have also recognized Guaidó have also decided not to take part.

Valero lambasted Trump as a “war-mongering racist” and said the U.S. president distained multilateralism.

The Venezuelan envoy insisted that only Wood walked out on Tuesday and claimed a diplomatic victory for Maduro’s government.

“The representative of the Donald Trump government remained isolated,” Valero told reporters. “What he did was ridiculous.”

“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.”

Wood sought to depict Maduro’s government as responsible for the many severe troubles facing Venezuela. Those include hyperinflation, a crackdown against political opponents, food and medicine shortages and an exodus of more than 3 million Venezuelans abroad in recent years.

“The regime — the former Maduro regime — is in essence dead,” Wood said. “It just doesn’t want to lay down.”

The U.S. walkout and boycott appeared mostly to be political theatrics, however. Wood acknowledged that the conference “isn’t doing very much right now.”

It was far from clear whether the U.S. move would have an impact on a body that has struggled and failed to come to a consensus on major issues in recent years.

Wood also led a boycott of Syria’s presidency of the conference last year.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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