Last week’s unopposed election of Nicaraguan Reverend Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann as the next President of the 192-member United Nations General Assembly will further undermine the standing of the UN in the eyes of the American public. D’Escoto served as foreign minister of Nicaragua during the Sandinista dictatorship of Daniel Ortega in the 1980s and is known for his extreme, stridently anti-American views.
In a June 2004 radio interview with Democracy Now, the Los Angeles-born Roman Catholic priest referred to former President Reagan as “the butcher of my people”, who was “responsible for the deaths of some 50,000 Nicaraguans,” and a leader who was “possessed by demons.” According to D’Escoto the United States was “the greatest enemy of the right of self-determination of peoples” and declared Americans to be “the most ignorant people around the world.”
D’Escoto was the pick of the 33-nation Latin American and Caribbean group within the UN. Under the system of regional rotation the bloc was able to put forward its own candidate for the presidency of the General Assembly (which controls the UN budget) without challenge from the rest of the world. He will take office at the next Assembly meeting in September, succeeding the low-key former foreign minister of Macedonia, Srgjan Kerim.
There is every chance that D’Escoto will abuse his status by turning the presidency into a platform for his anti-U.S. vitriol. The position will provide a high profile bully pulpit for launching ferocious attacks on U.S. foreign policy, and the traditional neutrality of the presidency is likely to be shattered by the presence of a far left ideological zealot with a deep hatred for America. He already used his inaugural speech to blast Washington’s “acts of aggression, such as those occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan”, and has demonstrated no intention of acting as a non-partisan force promoting international cooperation.
D’Escoto will arrive at the UN with a record of active support not only for anti-Americanism but also Marxism-Leninism. An ardent defender of Liberation Theology, D’Escoto achieved prominence in the struggle to topple the Somoza dynasty in the late 1970’s. As a member of Los Doce (“the 12”), D’Escoto helped mask the communist orientation of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and played a key role in the Marxists’ rise to power. After the Sandinistas began installing a Cuban-style dictatorship and marched comfortably with Fidel Castro, the Soviet Union and a bevy of Third World despots, D’Escoto served as Nicaragua’s foreign minister, taking the U.S. to the International Court of Justice over its support for the Nicaraguan Contras. For these efforts, D’Escoto was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviets in1985.
In the 1990s, with Daniel Ortega and the FSLN out of power, reformist elements tried and failed to transform the party and break Ortega’s personal stranglehold. D’Escoto sided with Ortega, sticking with his old boss through an ugly sex abuse scandal and the political pact with Arnoldo Alem√?¬°n, Nicaragua’s corrupt Liberal leader, which paved the way for the FSLN’s return to power in 2006 with just 38% of the popular vote.
As an adviser to Ortega, D’Escoto sided with Nicaragua’s turn to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and the embrace of the Bolivarian brand of aggressive populism. He was also supportive of Ortega’s budding ties with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, culminating in Iranian investment deals, reciprocal visits and Ortega’s endorsement of Iran’s demand to develop its nuclear capabilities before the UN General Assembly in 2007.
Nicaragua is rapidly emerging as a key friend and an ally of some of the most odious regimes on the face of the earth, and the presence of one of its key political figures at the head of the UN General Assembly is a demonstration of the organization’s callous disregard for the principles of liberty and freedom on the world stage.
The appointment of Miguel D’Escoto underscores yet again the UN’s growing irrelevance. It takes place against the backdrop of the World Food Organization summit in Rome, a sickening feast for some of the world’s most brutal tyrants, from Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Last week’s general assembly election is the latest nail in the coffin of the UN’s reputation as a world body, and another pitiful example of its relentless decline.
*Ray Walser, a Senior Policy Analyst for Latin America at the Heritage Foundation, also contributed to this article.