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Diplomats walk out of UN conference in Venezuela protest

FILE PHOTO: UN sitting

ViennaAustria | AFP | Diplomats Thursday walked out of a UN convention on drugs addressed by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, saying his government was illegitimate and did not represent the country.

Dozens of officials from Latin America, as well as the US, Canada and some European countries, including France, left the room in protest as Arreaza took the podium for the meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna.

“The members of the Venezuela delegation here today represent the illegitimate government of (Venezuela’s President) Nicolas Maduro, and thus cannot be considered as speaking on behalf of the Venezuelan people,” a spokesperson of the US Mission to International Organizations said in a statement after the walk-out.

Multiple diplomats including from Latin America and Europe had staged a walk-out late last month during an Arreaza address to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, when he called for direct talks between Maduro and US President Donald Trump about the country’s crisis.

Arreaza said in his speech in Vienna Thursday that the drug epidemic could only be combatted multilaterally, adding that US “unilateral economic steps” have cost the country billions, diverting funds from the fight against drugs.

“Today the multilateral model (of world affairs) is under threat and the situation of Venezuela is an example of this… The government of the US has threatened our people with a military aggression, with a use of force violating the UN charter,” he said.

The CND started meeting Thursday to discuss the world drug problem.

In Venezuela, widespread anger against President Nicolas Maduro has deepened due to an unprecedented nationwide power blackout.

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido — who is recognised as interim president by more than 50 countries — vowed this week to oust Maduro “very soon”.

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