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As Deposed Honduran Zelaya Rallies at UN, Questions Multiply, About Thursday Return with d'Escoto and Finances

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 30, updated -- Honduras' deposed president Manuel Zelaya's arrival in New York from Managua was the buzz at the UN on Tuesday morning. In front of the Security Council, diplomats made predictions about Security Council action depending on outcomes at the Organization of American States. In the General Assembly, less than an hour before Zelaya's speech was to begin, the hall was less than one third full as a speaker droned on about the UN's $8 billion peacekeeping budget.

  The first money question of the day, at least for Inner City Press, was who paid for Zelaya's flight to New York? Some suggested Air Chavez; others noted that Bolivia's Evo Morales skipped last week's UN summit on the global financial crisis due he said to a broken aircraft. Zelaya, of course, has amassed his own wealth.

  In Monday's GA session, Peru's representative joined others in denouncing the military coup in Honduras. He pointed out, however, that changes to how many terms a president can get should be processed according to the Constitution. While this was the backdrop to Zelaya's ouster from the country -- sanctioned by the Honduras Supreme Court -- the current President of the GA Miguel d"Escoto Brockmann concluded that one delegation had been "ambiguous."

  Actually several diplomats noted that Peru had been quite clear; it simply didn't jump on the cartoon-like bandwagon that even the U.S. did. What remained unclear after Monday, because d'Escoto Brockmann's spokesman refused to answer, was how much of the $280,000 that the UN and global taxpayers give to d'Escoto Brockmann's office for the year has already been spent, and how.

Zelaya and Daniel Ortega, fist raised, d'Escoto questions unanswered

  Half an hour before Zelaya's slated appearance, a speaker on the budget relayed what he called an ancient Chinese proverb: by both scrambling for the same thing, both parties look bad. By giving up something, both parties win. One wondered how that might apply to the situation in Honduras. Watch this space -- we will live blog Zelaya's speech and aftermath here.

Update of 11:22 a.m. -- the budget session has been suspended, awaiting Zelaya's speech. On one vote about the UN Mission in Lebanon, only the U.S. and Israel voted no. "What happened with Obama?" The Ambassador of Haiti's to be seen glad handing other diplomats, China's deputy Liu walking jauntily up the aisle. The GA hall is more full now.  The moment is near. And Zelaya's slated to hold a press conference at 12:45.

Update of 12:53 p.m. -- in the GA Hall, amendments are being proposed to the draft resolution on Honduras. Zelaya is seated in the Honduras seat. D'Escoto's and Zelaya's joint press conference has been postponed to, they say, 1:30 p.m..Outside the briefing room, a dozen Spanish-speaking journalists not usually at the UN mill around, asking "who is that Ambassador?" 

   In the midst of this, UN envoy to the Great Lakes of Africa, former Nigerian President Obasanjo, takes questions from the Press about the Congo. One wag notes that Obasanjo is a man who never let himself be overthrown.

Update of 1:02 p.m. -- D'Escoto announces that the following have joined as co-sponsors: the United States (camera cut to Amb. Rosemary DiCarlo, who d'Escoto yesterday called his sister), Canada and Colombia... There is applause... Rules are being waved in order to approve the just-suggested changes... d"Escoto bangs down the absurd wooden axe. And now the speech of the "Excelentisimo" Senor Zelaya...

Update of 1:17 p.m. -- Zelaya is saying the names of leaders who called him; he lays it on thick for Costa Rica, where he was "dumped" at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 28, for "Raul Castro" for repudiating a "grosero cuerpo militar." Zelaya is expected in Washington for an OAS meeting later on Tuesday...

Update of 1:25 p.m. -- Zelaya says he fought for freedom of information, and freedom of the press. He said he offended those who made money off the poor.

Update of 1:35 p.m. -- Zelaya argues that no court can diminish the natural rights of the people: the right to a referendum to allow him more than one term.

Update of 1:37 p.m. -- Zelaya says that in Honduras after the coup, the radio played only music and other "banal things." He says today's meeting makes him feel ever more committed to humanity.

Update of 1:40 p.m. -- Zelaya is narrating his Saturday before the coup: he led a march of 1000 to an army base to get the materials for the referendum, they let him in as Commander in Chief. The materials were distributed and elections observers began to arrive.

Update of 1:50 p.m. -- Zeleya relates how he was in his house outside of town -- he has cattle, he says -- and woke up in early in the morning and found a battalion outside, with rifles. His 21 year old daughter was in another building. He was in pajamas. They broke the doors. Zelaya had his cell phone out, calling a journalist. Then rifles pointed at him and, screaming, ordered him to drop the cell phone. Blow by blow, indeed.

Update of 1:51 p.m. -- speaking about his daughter, his voice crackes and he stops, dramatically. The audience claps. Unreal.

Update of 1:53 p.m. -- the pause is over, the voice is steady, Zelaya says that in the 1980s he fought for the return of Constitutional order.

Update of 1:57 p.m. -- the speech is over, the race is on: of the press for Zelaya and the briefing room.

Update of 2:49 p.m. -- Zelaya emerged from the GA Hall to a media scrum. In Spanish, he was asked, "What is your message for the aggressors?" He proceeded to the media briefing room. The press conference was run by d'Escoto Brockmann's spokesman Enrique Yeves, who at the previously day's ill-attended noon briefing refused to answer any questions about how d'Escoto Brockmann spends the funds given by the UN and taxpayers, and who has provided no information since.

  A series of generally lame or unanswered questions followed. Is he afraid? Of course not. Is he offended that he will not meet with either Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton? No, the trip was hastily put together. Zelaya says he will be flying to Tegucigalpa on Thursday, accompanied among others by... d'Escoto Brockmann, who sat motionless throughout the press conference, declining to answer the few questions directed his way.

  Inner City Press had a question to ask, but a raised hand throughout the press conference was ignored by d'Escoto Brockmann's spokesman, who called on numerous Mexican outlets and several reporters he could not identify.
   With all the flowery talk about transparency and freedom of information, it is amazing that a few questions about d'Escoto Brockmann using public funds to hire his nephew and niece leads Team Brockmann to disallow any further questions. Watch this site.

UN's D'Escoto Pins Honduras Coup on Obama, UN Money Questions Cut Off

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 29 -- With a range of world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, condemning the Honduran army's ouster on June 28 of President Zelaya, the UN General Assembly hastily took up the issue on June 29 at noon. GA President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann's spokesman on June 28 issued a press release that

"D’Escoto is making a special appeal to the President of the United States, Barack Obama, who recently at the summit in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, announced a new policy towards Latin America. 'Many are now asking if this coup is part of this new policy as it is well known that the army in Honduras has a history of total collaboration with the United States. In order to eliminate any doubt, it is absolutely necessary that President Obama immediately condemns the coups against President Zelaya.'"

   To use d'Escoto's phrase, many at the UN, including Latin diplomats, are now asking if d'Escoto has gone off the deep end. On June 26, d'Escoto gave a rambling speech about the era of the dinosaurs. Then, one diplomat snarked to Inner City Press, d'Escoto again acted like a dinosaur on June 28.

Chile's Ambassador Heraldo Munoz was asked about d'Escoto Brockmann's statement. He pointed out wryly that the Organization of America States, with the U.S. as a member, had unanimously condemned the coup. He said d'Escoto Brockmann's statement, then, doesn't merit comment. Video here, from Minute 18:48.

In a radio interview on June 28, d'Escoto Brockmann railed that Honduras' is one of the most corrupt armies in Latin America. While there is a lot of competition for that title, the statement became ironic on June 29, when d'Escoto Brockmann's spokesman Enrique Yeves outright refused to answer, or even listen to, a Press question regarding how much of the $280,000 allocated to his Office by the UN's member states -- and their taxpayers -- has already been spent.

"I stop you there," Yeves said. "I am not going to make... I have already told you clearly... I am not going to reply to you on that issue." Video here, from Minute 33:31.

   Inner City Press pointed out that Yeves hadn't even allowed the question to be asked. Yeves insisted that he knew what the question was going to be.

   Yeves was referring to a question that Inner City Press asked d'Escoto last week, to provide his rationale for using UN funds to hire two relatives. At the time, d'Escoto said he encouraged Inner City Press to continue with the "speculation," that he found it entertaining.

   First, that two d'Escoto relatives, Michael Clark and Sophia Clark, are being paid with UN funds is not speculation: Yeves himself on June 9 confirmed it to Inner City Press. After Inner City Press' exclusive report, it appeared in the Times of London and elsewhere, and numerous journalists who cover the UN said they would have liked to have known it when they quoted Michael Clark, who was brought out for multiple press conferences on behalf of d'Escoto.

   Second, if as d'Escoto said speculative and not factual, then it can only be clarified by the asking and answering of questions. But Yeves insisted that he will not add to what d'Escoto said. Which was, it is speculative and entertaining.

   D'Escoto claimed that the UN General Assembly and by implication his Office are more transparent than the G-20. Then he and his spokesman have refused to answer or even take questions about how much of the UN budget allocated to them has been spent.

D'Escoto, with Yeves over right shoulder, budget question not allowed

  D'Escoto made statement, largely well placed, about the Honduran Army's corruption.  But when will his Office and spokesman provide basic information about how much UN and taxpayers' money they have spent? Watch this site.

Footnote: While D'Escoto Brockmann's Spokesman Yeves refused to even listen to the question about how the UN's and taxpayers' funds are spent by his office, he did answer two Press questions before shutting down. He said that d'Escoto is now "really glad" about Obama's statement.

   When Inner City Press asked if D'Escoto had any response to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez putting his military on alert and threatening military action, Yeves said he had no comment on that. Then, about the use of UN and taxpayer funds, he said "I am not going to reply to you on that issue." Inner City Press encouraged Yeves to simply post the basic financial information on the President of the General Assembly's web site. We'll see.

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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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