A Speech Too Far

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A number of UN observers are predicting that the slow-motion train wreck of (T)Hugo Chavez's UN Security Council ambitions may be coming to an end. There is simply no sign that Venezuela will get enough votes with Guatemala pulling surprisingly high vote totals. Most of the blame is being assigned to Chavez's speech at the UN where he went off the deep end attacking president Bush. Chavez's political opposition is making the most of Chavez's blunder and may pull off an upset victory as a result. The leftist presidential candidate in Ecuador is distancing himself from Chavez after taking second place in initial polling in the election there.

The leftist cast the election for one of Latin America's rotating two-year council seats as between Venezuela and the United States, which lobbied openly for Guatemala.

But Chavez, who had hoped to use the seat to be a leading anti-U.S. voice on the world stage, failed to win in any of the 35 voting rounds at the General Assembly and trailed the tiny Central American nation by a margin of 20 to 30 ballots.

Although Guatemala did not secure the two-thirds support needed for the seat either, diplomats say it is unlikely Venezuela can win when voting to break the impasse is due to resume next week.

The drawn-out defeat in Chavez's top 2006 foreign policy goal came despite months of canvassing for votes with foreign trips, subsidized oil sales from Venezuela's large reserves and pledges to spearhead a global anti-U.S. alliance.

The voting showed there was little appetite around the world for following Chavez, even if Washington has irked many nations with the sort of aggressive diplomacy it used seeking support for its unpopular invasion of Iraq.

The losses also followed a disappointing second-place showing by Chavez's leftist ally in Ecuador's presidential election on Sunday that exposed the limits on his ambition to export his anti-Americanism in the region.

Ecuadorean candidate Rafael Correa, who faces a run-off ballot next month, has since distanced himself from Chavez, reassuring voters he would block the Venezuelan leader from interfering in his presidency.

What a disastrous move Chavez made. There is a lesson here for the left, if they are smart enough to see it.

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