To the dismay of the Bush administration and its European Union allies, the UN General Assembly endorsed Cuba’s nomination to the newly created UN Council on Human Rights on May 9.

Cuba was the choice of 135 countries out of 191 voting nations. The 47 council seats are allocated according to global regions, with eight seats assigned to Latin America.

The new council, which replaces the retiring UN Commission on Human Rights, aspires to a higher level of transparency, participation, accountability and efficiency than its predecessor. Unlike the old commission, membership is determined by secret ballot.

Felipe Perez Roque, Cuba’s foreign minister, accused the U.S. of exerting pressure and bribes on its client states to keep blacklisted countries off the new council, among whom, he said, “Cuba is honored to occupy a vanguard position.”

The U.S government, voted off the commission in 2001, was not in the running this time because, Perez said, its chances of winning a majority vote were slim. The secret ballot was a crucial part of nations voting “their sovereign will, guided by their consciences.” Other observers confirmed Perez’s estimates on this score.

Perez said Cuba’s election victory signifies growing international support for Cuba’s “resistance to the pretensions of imperial domination on the part of the superpower,” particularly among nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America who value Cuba’s leadership role in advancing causes shared by peoples of the global South.

The first meeting of the new council is set for June 19 in New York.