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In Honduras Coup Run-Up, UN's D'Escoto Dodged Questions to Serve Drinks, Family in Cabinet

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, June 28 -- As Honduras' president has been ousted by the country's army and Supreme Court, the response from the United Nations has been comical. On June 25, UN General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann summoned the Press to a rare 6:40 p.m. press conference about the coup in progress. Even stranger d'Escoto refused to answer any question from the Press, saying that he was hosting a reception, complete with drinks and canapes, up on the UN's fourth floor. Video here, from Minute 1:29.

  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on June 26 issued a statement through his spokesperson, responding to press reports that few in New York had seen: "In light of inaccurate reports which have appeared, the Secretary-General also wishes to clarify that the United Nations does not have plans to conduct an observation exercise in relation to this weekend's planned consultation."

  Early on June 28, Zelaya was forced out of the country and to Costa Rica by the army, on orders of the Supreme Court. Ban Ki-moon was deliberating going to Myanmar, a country long run by military leaders, but supported rather than condemned by d'Escoto Brockmann. From his office in the UN, d'Escoto Brockman had his spokespeople issue another statement, in which he called on U.S. President Obama to "immediately condemn the coups" (sic).

D'Escoto and UN's Ban, from coup d'estat to coupe de Champagne

  The statement went on that "President d'Escoto is meeting with his cabinet at his office at the UN in New York and closely monitoring the events in order to take the steps he considers appropriate." Could another reception or perhaps a dinner party be far behind?

   D'Escoto Brockmann's staff, paid for with UN funds, includes two of his own relatives, Michael Clark and Sophia Clark. When Inner City Press asked for d'Escoto Brockmann's position on why he thinks this is appropriate, d'Escoto called it entertaining speculation and declined to provide any explanation.

  At a June 26 press conference, d'Escoto Brockmann's spokesman Enrique Yeves pointedly did not all Inner City Press to ask any questions. D'Escoto previously said, I won't answer any questions from you, I don't like it, to a journalist. When someone with this approach to freedom of the press cries loudly about democracy, it may well be time for a drink...

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Even Evo Morales Skips UN Summit, Citing Broken Plane, "Disrespect" Endangers Outcome

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, June 25 -- The declining comedy of the UN General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann's summit on the global financial crisis resumed Thursday with word that even Bolivian president Evo Morales was not coming. He had been meeting in Venezuela with Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, neither of whom came.

   Ostensibly, the plane Morales was going to use to come to New York broke down and could not be fixed. For some, it was a symbol of d'Escoto's conference as a whole.

   The regional grouping most present at the summit are the Caribbean states. Inner City Press asked a panel representing Belize, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and Grenada how they felt being rebuffed not only by Western industrialized countries but even Chavez, Ortega and Morales.

  Edwin Carrington of St. Kitts said their failures to appear "endangers any outcome" or makes it "ring hollow." Video here.

The Caricom four, moderated by PGA's Office, talks "disrespect"

  The panel mentioned that the larger developing countries, seeing the West's boycott, were skeptical and did not come. Belize's Dean Barrow called it all "a form of disrespect."

   The highest profile attendee so far, Ecuador's president Correa, came out for 21st century socialism and threatened to sue the Wall Street Journal during his entertaining press conference. Inner City Press asked him for the significance of the conference. At least we are talking, he said. He confirmed that Evo Morales was not coming; his answer was translated into English as concerning an "illness" that couldn't be "cured." Inner City Press also asked Correa about banks and Joseph Stiglitz about US President Obama's regulatory proposal; their answer will be reported elsewhere on this site.

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Even Chavez and Ortega Send Underlings to UN Summit, Sources Say, D'Escoto Wastes Moment on Nepotism

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, June 24 -- Even two of Latin America's leaders furthest to the left have decided not to attend UN General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann's summit on the global financial crisis. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has decided to send only his finance minister, Ali Rodriguez Araque. D'Escoto's own president, Daniel Ortega, has sent his finance minister, Alberto Jose Guevara Obregon.

   The subprime meltdown hurt people worldwide, but presented an opportunity for the UN General Assembly and its one-year president d'Escoto Brockmann to be relevant. This chance was quickly squandered.

  D'Escoto issued his own "outcome" document that set forth a UN taxation authority to impose fees on cyberspace. More quietly, he decided to use his UN budget of at least $280,000 to hire two of his own relatives, as his deputy chief of staff and economic adviser, Michael Clark.

   When asked about it by Inner City Press, d'Escoto encouraged further "speculation" and said he found it entertaining. Hence this: uncontested nepotism undermines credibility, particularly when one is pontificating about the lack of transparency of the Group of 20.

D'Escoto with Zimbabwe VP Mujuru, Chavez and Ortega not shown

While d'Escoto and his team complained about press coverage of their increasing erratic tenure, they made covering the first day of the summit needlessly difficult. At first metal detectors were installed, but since so few heads of state came, they were not used on June 24. Still, the press was barred from entering the UN's second floor unescorted, and barred from the UN bar even as it sat empty. A reception for the summit was closed to the press.

D'Escoto showed his hand early in his presidency, when in a press conference he explicitly refused to answer a question from a reporter he didn't like. There was no push back, and soon he took to making light of questions about his own use of UN funds. Then he discouraged the press from covering his summit. Somewhere the banks were laughing, at a potential overseer laid low by arrogance. This will be continued: watch this site.

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Nepotism May Threaten UN Economic Crisis Summit, Role of Nephew of GA President d'Escoto Questioned

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, June 9 -- As industrialized countries' public skepticism has grown at the UN General Assembly's summit on the global economic crisis, postponed until later this month, analysts have focused on General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann's refusal to simply accept the proposed outcome document drafted by member states.

  Inner City Press is told by well-placed sources that a major reason for the so-called Draft-Gate which threatens to undermine the crisis summit is the presence among the PGA's paid staff of at least two d'Escoto relatives, and the freedom that he gives them.

   Michael Clark is an American staff member who has given numerous lengthly press conferences about the summit, most recently speaking so extensively about his views of a world without money that Inner City Press was not permitted a single question, about some countries' critique of the draft. At the time, Inner City Press reported that Michael Clark previously served with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and trying to open India to U.S. commercial firms.

    Now it can be told, confirmed by d'Escoto Brockmann's spokesman to his credit on June 9: Michael Clark is d'Escoto Brockmann's nephew. Another niece, Sophia Clark, is d'Escoto Brockmann's Deputy Chief of Staff.

  These two family connections were confirmed by spokesman Enrique Yeves on Tuesday. He noted that out of twenty cabinet members, only two are relatives of the President, and that these are "freely designated posts" not subject to competition or qualifications. They are, however, paid from the UN budget.

Chilean president Michele Bachelet, previously scheduled to attend the summit, has as Inner City Press heard recently canceled, Yeves confirmed on Tuesday. Few high level officials from industrialized countries are slated to come.

   It is becoming, as one well placed source put it, a wasted opportunity. When the UN General Assembly had a chance to come out with innovative ideas to regulate the global financial system, he asked, "who did they turn to? Father Miguel's nephew."

Michael Clark, with UNPGA one of two Clarks -- or three?

   Within those parts of the General Assembly not related to Escoto Brockmann by blood or marriage, one can find dissatisfaction with Michael Clark and the way d'Escoto has "let him run wild," as one source put it. This source states that Clark has been trying to find this next job after d'Escoto Brockmann's year as PGA expires, and that this has included trying to find some European jobs.

   The source traces changes that Clark made to what was ostensibly d'Escoto Brockmann's personal draft to subsequent criticism of the draft. "Father Miguel is taking heat for a problem Michael created," the source says, calling it misplaced loyalty.

    Yeves said for the record that Michael Clark is by no means the only adviser on the summit, and argued that Clark's appearance at three press conferences in a row about the summit was not, as one source put it, a "try out," but simply a product of the travel schedule of d'Escoto Brockmann and his other advisers. Inner City Press asked to interview Michael Clark for this story.

   Yeves said all such requests to the PGA's advisers go through him, and that answer would be given by Tuesday at 5 p.m.. Inner City Press hours before that time also made the request directly to Mr. Clark. After that deadline, this story is being published, and will be updated. Watch this site.

UN's $8.2 Billion Peace Budget Faces 2.5% Cut, S. Korea Puts Congo Drones on Block?

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, June 8 -- Anyone can call for peace, but who will pay for it? That question was being debate, or at least discussed, in the basement of the UN past 10 p.m. on Monday night. The UN's Fifth (Budget) Committee had passed its end of May deadline and still the $8.2 billion peacekeeeping budget was in dispute.

  The U.S, Japan, European Union and surprise Westerner South Korea are proposing a 2.5 percent across the board reduction in all peacekeeping missions' budgets. The phrase, taken from the Western Sahara draft of June 6, was a decision "to reduce the Mission's overall operational costs by a further 2.5 per cent to be accommodated through efficiency savings." The Group of 77 and China are resisting.

  Take for example the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC. The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions' "recommendations on the financing of MONUC would entail an overall reduction of $66,818,200 or some 4.7 percent of the Mission's overall budget," mostly due to the local elections MONUC will support being put back into 2010.

  The African Group, on the other hand, "is concerned that the cuts proposed by the ACABQ could negatively impact on the effective functioning of the Mission."

  These quotes are from public speeches. Consider, however, the confidential presentation of the Secretariat to ACABQ, the slide script of which Inner City Press has been given by a well-placed source. The Secretariat argued that "the budget before you is not a maintenance budget based on routine operations." Instead the Secretariat proposed "an increase of $235 million compare to 2008/09... 168 new posts and positions directly related to the surge in troops."

This "surge" is the 3,000 additional personnel called for the Security Council during the CNDP fighting in the Kivus, before the house arrest and Nkunda and incorporation of indicted war criminal Jean-Bosco Ntanganda into the Congolese Army, where he has worked in connection with UN-supported operations according to Congolese records. While troubling, this should at least save money, no? No. The Secretariat still proposed ever-increased spending.

  The surge will come, the document says, from "troops from Bangladesh, Egypt and Jordan... The new Egyptian battalion will be deployed to South Kivu and the Bangladeshi will be deployed to Ituri... while the Jordan Special Forces company will be positioned in North Kivu."

  Interestingly, the budget includes "$18 million additional requirements for 2 UAVs" -- unmanned aerial vehicles, the drones MONUC chief Alan Doss requested at the turn of the year.

UN's Ban and Doss (not Mountain) in DRC, budget cuts not shown

  Several Fifth Committee sources emphasized to Inner City Press the news value of South Korea's position. Here you have Ban Ki-moon, one source spun, putting his name on proposals to increase peacekeeping budgets by almost five percent, while his home country South Korea has joined the push to instead cut the budgets by 2.5 percent.

   The source asked, "who's kidding who?" All we could say is "whom." (On this front it must be said that the Secretariat's presentation to ACABQ has some laughable typos. It refers for example to "the Pakistanese battalion." But we digress.)

   Upstairs in the Delegates' Lounge, a proponent of the Haiti mission's budget told Inner City Press that MINUSTAH, as it's known, spends 100% or more of its budget. Mission head Hedi Annabi is called Napoleonic. Other missions, in their start up phase or even earlier, like Somalia, might face even steeper cuts.

   During all of this, the chief of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy is slated to travel from June 9 to 23 to West Africa. He will stop first in Nigeria, where 27 peacekeepers have been sentence to jail for life for protesting not being paid after a UN mission. Another peacekeeper, female, says she was pressured for sex while on mission. As a now-dead rapper sang, More money, more problems.

   Le Roy will head to Cote d'Ivoire, where Laurent Gbagbo keeps putting off the promised election. When will the mission draw down? The force in Liberia, too, is called larger than needs be. In the basement, however, it is a question of whose ox is gored. Watch this site.

 Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance

  Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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