BY JACQUELINE CHARLES AND PABLO BACHELET
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - Venezuela's firebrand President Hugo Chávez took a major step toward securing a crucial bloc of votes for a seat on the U.N. Security Council Thursday after the 15-member Caribbean Community made it clear they would not support Guatemala's U.S.-backed candidacy.
A formal declaration of CARICOM's support for Venezuela would come later, but leaders of the regional bloc meeting here said Guatemala's long-standing territorial claims against Belize, a CARICOM member, made them oppose its candidacy.
''The very strong view within CARICOM is that the claim that Guatemala continues to make on Belize is unacceptable,'' said CARICOM Chairman and St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas.
Guatemala is claiming half of Belize as part of a centuries-old dispute.
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