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Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro touched down in New York earlier today for his first appearance as president at the UN General Assembly. He arrived just as Venezuela looks set to win a seat on the Security Council, a major coup for the president who was elected to power after the death of Hugo Chávez last year.
“To New York I will take the voice of Venezuela,” Maduro said yesterday, “the voice of Chávez!” This week marks the eighth anniversary of Chávez’s own speech at the General Assembly lectern. In September 2006, the maverick president theatrically sniffed the air a day after George W Bush’s own speech. “The devil came here yesterday,” Chávez said. “It still smells of sulfur.”
Back then, the US campaigned hard against Venezuela joining the 15-member Security Council. This time, however, US officials have said they will not stand in the country’s way, though they have expressed disappointment.
Should Venezuela win the Security Council seat, it is likely to stand up for US enemies such as Iran and Syria. Maduro will be hoping that international attention will detract from major problems at home.
This is Girish Gupta in Caracas, Venezuela, for Radio France Internationale.