miguel_descoto.jpg (4989 bytes)Revolutionary priest to head next U.N. General Assembly

Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, Catholic priest, blunt critic of the United States, and longtime foreign minister of Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, will preside over the United Nations 63rd General Assembly when it convenes in September. In March, D’Escoto won the backing of the 33-member Latin American and Caribbean contingent, and on June 4 the 192-member General Assembly elected him president. Both were by acclamation.

D’Escoto's chief political patron is Daniel Ortega, the president of Nicaragua, whose strident anti-Americanism has tested the assembly’s rules of decorum in the past. Nicaragua is a stalwart ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, whose antic fulminations during the 2006 general debate are believed to have cost his country a seat on the Security Council.

Observers say Nicaragua lobbied calmly and without fanfare, and the Latin American and Caribbean contingent, whether ideological allies or foes of the U.S., seemed anxious to avoid internal division after the defeat of Venezuela’s Security Council bid two years ago, which required 48 agonizing ballots to decide.

D’Escoto, the son of a Nicaraguan diplomat, was born in 1933 in Los Angeles, spent his childhood years in Nicaragua, then returned to the U.S. for religious training. In 1961, he was ordained in the Maryknoll missionary order of the Roman Catholic Church, based in upstate New York.

After ministering in Chile and receiving a doctorate from the University of Colombia, he helped found Orbis Books, the Maryknoll imprint specializing in liberation theology that emphasizes the church’s duty to bring social justice through political activism — often cited as a form of Christian socialism. He secretly joined the Sandinista National Liberation Front and helped engineer its gradual inclusion in politics. When the Sandinistas came to power in 1979, he was named foreign minister, and held the post until 1990.

When the United States funded, armed and trained the anti-government Contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s, D’Escoto offered stinging critiques of U.S.-sponsored “terrorism” in both the General Assembly and the Security Council, and helped bring about a successful ruling against the U.S. at the International Court of Justice at The Hague. He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize.

After the death of former President Ronald Reagan in 2004, D’Escoto told Pacifica Radio he prayed that God forgive Reagan “for having been the butcher of my people, for having been responsible for the deaths of some 50,000 Nicaraguans ... crimes he committed in the name of what he falsely labeled freedom and democracy.”

D’Escoto is a senior advisor on foreign affairs to Ortega, the former Marxist comandante who regained the Nicaraguan presidency in 2006 after 16 years out of office. Addressing the General Assembly last fall, Ortega called the U.S. “the most gigantic and powerful dictatorship that has existed in all the history of humanity.”

Though D’Escoto remains a priest in good standing, he was banned from priestly duties by Pope John Paul II in 1983 for refusing to leave the Nicaraguan government.

As General Assembly president, D’Escoto will not be able to vote on resolutions, but will control debates and schedules. He did not opt for diplomacy in his acceptance speech, but criticized “acts of aggression” in Iraq and Afghanistan, without naming the U.S. directly. He said that meant the United Nations “lost credibility.” A spokesman for the U.S. mission retaliated, saying D’Escoto’s “crazy comments are not acceptable.”

The stage is set.

– The InterDependent, Journal of the United Nations Association-USA, Summer 2008
PeaceMeal, July/August 2008