UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro called for a "re-founding" of the United Nations late Wednesday in his first speech before the international organization.
The socialist president took the podium at the General Assembly of world leaders to demand that the U.N. undergo a profound transformation and recognize that the world is now multipolar, defined by new regional alliances.
Co-operation among Latin American countries has Venezuela poised to win a seat on the U.N. Security Council next year. Maduro said that this council in particular needed an immediate overhaul to ensure that it reflects the modern world, in which every region has its own voice and ambitions.
Speaking with hand gestures and a declamatory style, he praised Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for helping stave off Islamic State militants, and pledged $5 million to the fight against Ebola.
He railed against harassment by the "imperial forces" of the American empire "that have tried again and again to undermine democracy."
But unlike his mentor and predecessor Hugo Chávez, who famously called George W. Bush the devil in a U.N. speech, Maduro stopped short of personal attacks or name-calling.
As with most aspects of Maduro's presidency, the spirit of the more popular Chávez was close at hand during the half hour speech. Maduro made several reverential references to the populist leader. And Chávez's daughter, who Maduro recently named as deputy ambassador to the U.N., made her public debut at the organization as she watched from the empty-looking auditorium.
Maduro concluded his remarks with a prayer for peace. Something that will only be possible, he said, when the sovereignty of each country is respected.