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UN's d'Escoto Seeks to Extend Nepotism to Financial Working Group, Sources Say

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 25 -- Despite the low level turn out for his summit on the global financial crisis, General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann is reportedly already trying to name members to a proposed working group which would follow-up on the whatever is accomplished or agreed to at the summit.

  D'Escoto is already under fire for having put two of his relatives, a nephew and a niece, on his staff for the summit, paying them with UN funds. Now, sources tell Inner City Press, attempts have been made to get both of them positions with the financial working group, to stay on even after d'Escoto must step down.

   D'Escoto has refused to explain his reasoning in paying two relative with UN funds. Inner City Press first reported the story on June 9, and on June 23 Inner City Press asked d'Escoto about it. D'Escoto snidely encouraged Inner City Press to "continue with its speculation" which he found "entertaining."

  Meanwhile, a range of diplomats including from the left and Latin America approached Inner City Press to marvel at the low quality of d'Escoto's management. They said a move had been afoot to get D'Escoto's nephew Michael Clark, and niece Sophia Clark, positions with the working group d'Escoto wants to come out of the summit. As one wag wryly put it, "To the losers go the spoils."

PGA d'Escoto and nephew Michael Clark, writing on the left, spoils not shown

   While there has been no legal accountability, it is said that the incoming President of the General Assembly Ali Treki of Libya, initially open to the extension of the two nepotistic hires, has grown skeptical due to the bad publicity.

    At a press conference of Caribbean states, moderated by a staffer from d'Escoto's Office, Belize's Dean Barrow appeared to indirectly answer as d'Escoto might or should have, saying with reference to the head of state of Grenada naming his own son as ambassador to the UN that there is no need to be "overly finicky" when talent runs all in the family. But does it here? Watch this site.

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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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UN Crisis Summit Begins with a Whimper and US Threat, Absent Are Chavez, Consumer Protection

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 24 -- The green carpeted lobby outside the UN General Assembly chamber was criss crossed Wednesday morning by a procession of diplomats, mostly lower level ministers on their way to GA President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann's summit on the global financial crisis.

  At a press conference on Tuesday, d'Escoto had joked among other things about "white smoke" being issued to signal that an outcome document had been agreed to even before the conference began. The only leverage, then, that delegations have is to threaten to reopen the agreed on compromise text. And the U.S. has threatened just that, Inner City Press is told by a well placed Latin diplomat.

A paragraph in the outcome document concerning immigration triggered the U.S. threat, reminiscent of the Bush Administration. Call it the Lou Dobbs CNN effect. No U.S. administration can be seen agreeing to a text promoting open borders.

  Amazingly, given that the crisis began with predatory lending to lower income people, mostly of color, the conference and outcome document deal hardly at all with consumer protection. When Inner City Press on Tuesday after four NGOs about this lack, their answers conflated the high and low of finance, babbling that hedge funds had sold products -- mortgages? -- to unsuspecting people.

   The financial regulatory proposals have been watered down so much that banking industry sources consulted by Inner City Press, to the degree they were even aware of d'Escoto and his shifting cyber-tax proposals, said in essence that they could casually declare victory even in the flag-draped dream world of Latin leftist multilateralism.

    But where was Hugo Chavez? Where was Daniel Ortega? Was it that the sense of crisis passed? Or that d'Escoto's conference became too much of a joke even for grandstanders like Chavez? D'Escoto hired his nephew with UN money to advise about the crisis, then Tuesday refused to even explain the nepotism which left Latin diplomats, even leftists, shaking their heads.

UN PGA d'Escoto, white smoke not shown

   Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his advisors strode in formation into the GA chamber. UN Communications staff came and erected a blue General Assembly backdrop so that the UN TV camera could no longer film into the chamber. Many backdrops at the UN, but who would speak in front of them? Mexico, for example, has a minister said to be ready for press encounters. The UK has Mark Malloch Brown, but where it is not clear. Sir John Sawers was spotted Tuesday afternoon -- looking for intelligence, someone quipped.

   Croatia's permanent representative Neven Jurica, it was confirmed to Inner City Press, is no longer in charge of the mission. The financial irregularities Inner City Press reported on Monday have been further specified: gambling losses in Las Vegas, charged to the mission, according to the Zagreb press. It is the national day there, the mission says, there will be no more statements. Others note that Croatia is downsizing the mission by a full nine staffers. Why run for the Security Council if you're only going to downsize? The financial crisis is everywhere. Watch this space: this will be updated.

Update of 2:22 p.m. -- at the UN's noon press briefing, Inner City Press asked d'Escoto's spokesman about the immigration paragraph and about the U.S. being represented by its UN Ambassador Susan E. Rice, no one from the Treasury Department or financial regulatory or even development agency.

  He gave a count that of 142 delegations "inscribed," 67 are represented by their Ambassadors. Responding to the immigration questions, he called it a negotiation. Prior to the briefing, on why d'Escoto did not provide his reasons for hiring two relatives with UN money, he said that many people want to talk about many things and d'Escoto is not going to fall into the trap. 
  Whether while berating the G-20 for example as non transparent and the UN GA as a better alternative it is a good idea to refuse to answer questions about the use of UN funds to hire relatives is a good idea will, one supposes, be subject to objective assessment through time....

Update of 3:24 p.m. -- the panel discussion with Joseph Stiglitz is kicked off, under the watchful eye, on the podium, of President d'Escoto's nephew, an advisor on the summit paid with UN funds. The Press has been confined to the cheap seats, where most seats don't have ear pieces (and some that do, have Stiglitz blaring in Russian). Also on the panel are mid-level managing directors of the IMF and World Bank. There will be something "interactive," but the Press, in the cheap seats, will not be able to participate. Ironically, the UN's in-house media, UN Radio, was down by the podium interviewing Stiglitz. It's like state owned media giving itself a scoop. Only at the UN....

Update of 3:54 p.m. -- Ms. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director of the World Bank, mentions the good deeds of the head of the World Bank (who is not here). Head of ECLAC in Chile Alicia Barcena talks about the UN's "transparency and accountability" and the shift from an oil to a carbon free economy. Why did Chilean president Bachelet cancel her appearance here?

 Meanwhile Ms. Barcena's successor as UN Under Secretary General for Management Angela Kane held a "town hall" meeting earlier this afternoon in the UN basement. Security Officers outside said, only for staff. Shouldn't the sign say closed meeting, then? Yes," the guard acknowledged. Even staff were not allowed to tape record the meeting. Can you say, paranoid? So how much more transparent than the G-20 is the UN?

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.

 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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