Thick as BRICS

MEXICO CITY – When the United Nations voted for what was known as partition and created the State of Israel 64 years ago, subsequently granting it full membership, several Latin American countries – Brazil, El Salvador, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Honduras – abstained, or, in the case of Cuba, voted against the relevant resolutions. Mexico abstained on partition, though it voted in favor of admitting Israel to the UN a few months later, and subsequently recognized the Jewish state, acknowledging that its national interest was best served by not taking sides in the Middle East imbroglio.

In the coming weeks, most Latin American countries will vote in favor of some form of UN membership or recognition of statehood that the Palestinian Authority is seeking. But some will not. The issue is not a simple one for the Security Council’s two Latin American non-permanent members, Brazil and Colombia, or for Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, and Honduras, which have already recognized Palestine, but have not yet voted to grant it “observer” status at the UN.

To become a full-fledged UN member, the Security Council must recommend the move to the General Assembly; but upgrading the Palestinian Authority’s status to that of the Vatican – which in theory would allow it to participate in many UN agencies, including the International Criminal Court – requires only a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly. In any case, the political consequences overshadow legal or bureaucratic issues. Forcing the US to use its veto in the Security Council, or obtaining the support of more than 150 of the UN’s 193 member states in the General Assembly, would be a huge defeat for Israel and the US, which is why the Latin American votes are important.

Brazil has stated that it intends to vote in the Security Council in favor of recommending Palestine’s admission to the General Assembly; Colombia has said that it plans to abstain. Most other Latin American countries would probably vote in favor of some sort of enhanced status for the Palestinian Authority.