The Latest: US envoy blasts Venezuela seat on UN agency

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says Venezuela's election to the Human Rights Council "is an embarrassment to the United Nations and a tragedy for the people of Venezuela."

UNITED NATIONS -- The Latest on voting for the U.N. Human Rights Council (all times local):

2:10 p.m.

Kelly Craft said in a statement after Thursday's vote: "That one of the world's worst human-rights abusers would be granted a seat on a body that is supposed to defend human rights is utterly appalling."

She said she's "personally aggrieved that 105 countries voted in favor of this affront to human life and dignity," and added, "It provides ironclad proof that the Human Rights Council is broken and reinforces why the United States withdrew."

The United States and more than 50 other countries have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's president, arguing that President Nicolás Maduro's reelection was invalid. But Maduro is recognized by a larger number of nations and continues to hold effective power. His government represents Venezuela at the U.N.


1:45 p.m.

Philippe Bolopion is the rights group's deputy director for global advocacy. He said Thursday it's also a slap to "the millions who have fled largely because of a humanitarian emergency the government unleashed."

Venezuela and Brazil were the top vote getters for two Latin American seats on the council in the General Assembly vote, beating Costa Rica.

Bolopion said the council should continue to scrutinize the Maduro government's abuses "and hold those responsible to account."

He said the General Assembly should recognize that electing "serial rights abusers like Venezuela" betrays its established principles for the Human Rights Council.

Venezuela's government routinely dismisses criticisms of its human rights record as biased and ill-informed.


1:20 p.m.

The government of President Nicolás Maduro is celebrating Venezuela's newly won seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council as a diplomatic victory amid an onslaught of criticism.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said Thursday's U.N. vote followed a "fierce campaign." Some 50 organizations and nations campaigned in opposition to Maduro and his government over its rights record.

Maduro's government has rejected recent criticism by the U.N.'s commissioner on human rights, who found cases of torture, sexual abuse and extrajudicial killings.

Maduro is under pressure by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who seeks to oust the socialist president.

Maduro's attorney general on Thursday also announced the release of 24 people he called "political prisoners" in a gesture stemming from a new round of negotiations with minority parties that don't include Guaidó.


12:01 p.m.

Venezuela has won a contested election for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council despite a campaign by organizations and countries opposed to Nicolas Maduro's government and its rights record.

There was scattered applause in the General Assembly chamber Thursday after its president announced the results of the voting for two Latin American seats. Brazil topped the ballot with 153 votes followed by Venezuela with 105 votes and late entry Costa Rica with 96 votes.

In other contested races, Iraq lost out in the Asian group to Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and the Marshall Islands, and Moldova lost in the Eastern Europe group to Armenia and Poland.

The 193-member General Assembly was electing 14 members to the 47-member Human Rights Council for three-year terms starting Jan. 1. Under its rules, seats are allocated to regions to ensure geographical representation.


11:30 a.m.

The General Assembly is holding elections to the U.N. Human Rights Council with all eyes on the contested race for Latin American seats where Venezuela is a candidate and rights groups and opponents of Nicolás Maduro's government are urging a "no" vote.

The Latin American and Caribbean regional group at the United Nations initially put forward two candidates for two seats — Venezuela and Brazil. But Costa Rica entered the race in early October, with strong backing from human rights groups and Maduro opponents.

"Now that U.N. member states have a choice, there is no possible excuse to vote for Venezuela," said Louis Charbonneau, U.N. director at Human Rights Watch. "A vote for Venezuela is a vote for the torture, murder and impunity that have become trademarks of President Nicolás Maduro's government."

The 193-member General Assembly is electing 14 members to the 47-member Human Rights Council for three-year terms starting Jan. 1. Under its rules, seats are allocated to regions to ensure geographical representation.