Never One to Mince His Words; General Assembly Chief at U.N. Fires Up Critics

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 13, 2009 | Go to article overview

Never One to Mince His Words; General Assembly Chief at U.N. Fires Up Critics


Byline: Betsy Pisik, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

UNITED NATIONS -- Getting the U.N. General Assembly to agree on anything is, at best, a difficult job - one that usually requires tact and persuasiveness, rather than muscle and bluster.

The unofficial protocol for General Assembly (GA) presidents has, for years upon years, been one of public politeness and backroom arm-twisting and candor.

But GA president Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, who ends his one-year term Sept. 15, has ignored decades of tradition: The Catholic priest and former Nicaraguan foreign minister has never met an injustice he could not renounce, nor championed a cause without vigor and plain-spoken indignation.

I believe in speaking frankly, especially to power, Mr. d'Escoto told The Washington Times. It serves no purpose to [sugarcoat] things.

Generally speaking, developing nations have considered this a refreshing change, but the U.S. and many Western governments and nongovernment organizations say the president sometimes abused the GA podium.

The U.S. Mission forwarded a statement attributed to Alejandro Wolff, the deputy ambassador to Susan Rice, the U.S. representative at the United Nations.

Mr. d'Escoto has repeatedly abused his position to pursue his personal agenda, and in doing so he diminishes the office and harms the General Assembly. He is doing the United Nations a disservice by dividing the membership at a time when he should be a unifying force, the statement said.

The GA president said he and Mr. Wolff are friends, and shrugged off the condemnation. Some may criticize me, he said. They are welcome to disagree, speaking frankly is what this is all about.

Mr. d'Escoto has repeatedly singled out the United States for failing to support the Palestinians, criticizing Iran's nuclear agenda and triggering the global credit crisis with its moral and ethical failure.

He also says Washington uses its influence to unfairly dictate U.N. priorities, and he accused the United States and other industrialized nations of starving the world with their hunger for natural resources such as oil.

In early August, the priest begged forgiveness from the Japanese people because the pilot of the Enola Gay - the plane that dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima at the end of World War II - was a Catholic.

Many diplomats - who don't want to be identified as publicly disrespecting the GA president - say Mr. d'Escoto has at times run the 192-member world body based on his own passions, convening meetings to denounce Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip and the summer coup in Honduras.

Mr. d'Escoto's staff said he got a bad rap for being so outspoken and that he succeeded in creating a consensus for most GA resolutions.

He managed to have consensus among all countries to agree to the [economic and finance resolution] despite the odds, said GA spokesman Enrique Yeves. He has always worked for consensus and, what is more, he has been very successful in very delicate issues.

But Mr. d'Escoto, 76, often went it alone. …

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Never One to Mince His Words; General Assembly Chief at U.N. Fires Up Critics
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