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UN Funds Sought for Zelaya Camp, Ambassador Envied by Peers, Spain and D'Escoto Updates

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 5 -- Just beyond the Honduran border in Nicaragua, Manuel Zelaya has set up a base and urged his supporters to come across and camp with him, promising them food and shelter. Reportedly, Nicaragua has asked the UN for this help, calling the Zelaya supporters refugees. At the UN in New York, Inner City Press has twice as the Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon if any UN assistance is being provided, but has yet to receive an answer.

   Meanwhile a UN Security Council Permanent Representative, speaking on background because he is a Zelaya supporter, told Inner City Press that he "envies" and is troubled by the compensation paid from the Honduran treasury and taxpayers to the country's pro-Zelaya Permanent Representative to the UN, Jorge Arturo Reina Idiaquez. He put the figure at $16,000 a month, and said that Jorge Arturo Reina Idiaquez is paid, as a sort of bonus, for fourteen months rather than the 12 months in a year.

  The total, then, would be $224,000. He asked if some of the food and shelter costs at Zelaya's camp should be covered from this, or at other say, by Hugo Chavez. Of Jorge Arturo Reina Idiaquez the Council Ambassador said, "He makes more than me, but his job is not so secure."

   The Honduran Mission to the UN telling some reporters that Spain has cut off military and other aid to Honduras; the Spanish Mission ot the UN's spokesman is on vacation, and confirmation has been sought but not received. Nor is Spain, usually omnipresent at the UN, listing among the 40 speakers in the August 5 Security Council open debate on peacekeeping, despite its losses with UNFIL in Lebanon.

Jorge Arturo Reina Idiaquez and PGA d'Escoto, money questions not shown

   Zelaya supporter Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, the Sandinista president of the General Assembly, is no longer in New York. He has departed on a trip to Japan. Before leaving, he briefed the Japanese press corps at the UN, telling them that he intends to meet with victims of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and to "ask forgiveness," he said, on behalf of the pilot of the Enola Gay B-29 bomber Paul Tibbets, who he said was a Christian.

  Most of the Japanese reporters scoffed and wondered what would come out of d'Escoto Brockmann's long distance mission, and who was paying for it.

   There are moves afoot to reform the office of the President of the General Assembly, to make it more professional and at least more transparent. D'Escoto Brockmann's nephew Michael Clark, hired with UN money to advise on the summit on the global financial crisis, recently chided reporters for not covering the Assembly more, and not knowing where his office was. D'Escoto Brockmann's steadfast spokesman denies that the recent resolution to set up an ongoing working group on the crisis will involve any paid positions, for Michael Clark or otherwise.

  Before Inner City Press wrote about D'Escoto Brockmann's hiring with UN money of his niece Sophia Clark and nephew Michael, comment was sought from Michael Clark, through the spokesman and in person, in the UN cafeteria. None ever came. It is still not yet September. Watch this site.

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UN's d'Escoto Says Flew With Venezuelan Air Force Pilots Unknowingly, Protest Filed

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 11 -- Against the backdrop of on again off again talks about Honduras hosted in Costa Rica, in New York UN General Assembly President Manuel d'Escoto Brockmann told the Press about his July 5 flight with Manuel Zelaya and said the problem will be solved "soon... probably in less than a week."

  Inner City Press asked d'Escoto Brockman about the Hugo Chavez-provided plane he and Zelaya flew toward Honduras in, and about reports that Chavez paid for the ballot materials for Zelaya's abortive referendum then opinion poll. While D'Escoto had been speaking about sovereignty, who did the concept apply to accepting so much help from a foreign leader? Video here, from Minute 30:50.

  D'Escoto Brockmann began by saying, "to be frank, I never knew where the plane was from, I was wondering while on it, if it was a plane they rented, maybe it was." But the plane was a Falcon 50 owned by the Venezuelan state oil company, tail number N285CP.
  D'Escoto said the plane was flown by a "young Venezuelan" pilot. Chavez bragged that it was directed by two Venezuelan Air Force pilots. Chavez was quoted, "About two hours ago, a Venezuelan airplane took off from Washington, with two pilots from the Venezuelan Air Force." Not surprisingly, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Micheletti government -- regime? -- in Honduras Enrique Ortez says he has filed a protest of violation of Honduran air space, so far with Venezuela.

  On July 6, the day after the flight, d'Escoto Brockmann's spokesman had confirmed

Inner City Press: Can you say a little bit more about the plane that Mr. Zelaya and Mr. d’Escoto were on? Whose plane is it, who is paying for the plane, who is paying for President d’Escoto’s return, you know, all this flying around? And I did want to ask you whether the Office of the President of the General Assembly is subject to the jurisdiction of the Board of Auditors and OIOS; if that’s your understanding?

Spokesperson Yeves: Okay, on the first question, the plane I think has been widely reported as well in the media. That plane is from the Venezuelan Government, and they put it at the disposal of Mr. Zelaya in case he wanted to use it in his efforts to return to Tegucigalpa. And, it is, as I said, a small plane and the President of Honduras decided who goes in that plane. As for the return from Nicaragua, it will be paid obviously from the President’s budget, I assume if he comes in a regular flight. I am not sure what is the situation now with those planes, as I said, because they have two planes. They have also the plane from the Government of Argentina. And as for your second question, yes, of course, everything is audited by the internal and external auditors, like anything else, and the UN.

  The plane listed San Salvador as it destination, but veered off to Honduras, "from the south," d'Escoto said on July 10. Then, running out of fuel, it went to Managua.

  D'Escoto answered by saying that Chavez is one of the "main promoters of Latin American union... sure he is critical of some U.S. policies, but so is Obama!" He went on to say that no one should dictate "who our friends are," that the U.S. is friends Israel and "we are friends with Chavez."

  But in terms of sovereignty, what would he say to a Honduran citizen who objected to his government accepting ballot materials and plane flights from a foreign country?

  Inner City Press asked d'Escoto if the solution might involve early elections. D'Escoto Brockmann responded indignantly, "Only in the mind of someone who doesn't understand democracy. Early elections? Why? There should be early incarceration... of those who perpetrated such a crime" Video here, from Minute 35:40.

D'Escoto (center) and UN's Ban, former flies Chavez, the latter from Bahrain not sure

  The press conference moved on to bragging about the GA's financial crisis summit. Afterwards reporters tried to square Chavez' denunciation of the Costa Rica negotiation as "dead" with d'Escoto Brockmann's hope to the contrary.

Financial footnote: Inner City Press asked, but again was not answered, for a simple presentation of how much UN money d'Escoto Brockmann's office has spent. The question will continue to be asked until it is answered. It is understood that the Office of Internal Oversight Services is "looking into" its jurisdiction of the PGA's Office, presumably including hiring fairness and nepotism. Watch this site.

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Zelaya and d'Escoto Flew in Chavez' Plane, Some Questions UNanswered

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 6 -- Venezuela's Hugo Chavez provided the plane on which Manuel Zelaya and UN General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann flew July 5 over Tegucigalpa, d'Escoto Brockmann's spokesman Enrique Yeves confirmed to Inner City Press on July 6.

   Brockmann's return from his native Nicaragua to brief the General Assembly in New York will be paid "from the President's budget," Yeves said, adding that the PGA's budget is "audited by external and internal auditors like everything else at the UN." Video here, from Minute 17:44.

    Now that it is confirmed that Chavez provided the plane to Zelaya and presumably paid for jet fuel, the extent of his support and control in Honduras is worth re-examining. As noted, Zelaya refused to provide the Honduran parliament with his budget in September 2008.

   After the Honduras Supreme Court ruled that Zelaya could not hold a flash referendum removing presidential term limits, it has been reported that the referendum -- or "opinion poll" -- materials were prepared and paid for by Chavez.

    On July 5, Nicaragua's ambassador to the Organization of American States predicted that Honduras will say that it and Venezuela are behind and funding protests in Tegucigalpa, in an echo of Iranian claims that the UK is behind the protests in Tehran. Sticking with that comparison, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was asked by the Los Angeles Times

LAT: If President Ahmadinejad comes to the U.N. General Assembly in September as the elected president of Iran, will you acknowledge his election as legitimate?

BKM: It's up to the member states who should represent their country. If he comes as president of Iran, I'm ready to meet with him again and discuss all matters.

   By that logic, once Honduras' Supreme Court ruled it legal that Zelaya be replaced by Micheletti, Ban and the UN Secretariat would have deferred to the country's highest court. But getting a sense of the political winds, Ban applied a different test. Either test can be defended, but a double standard can't. Or hasn't.

Hugo Chavez at UN, 2006 -- he did not attend d'Escoto's 2009 summit

    Back at the UN, D'Escoto Brockmann refused to defend his use of UN funds to hire two relatives. After that, his spokesman Enrique Yeves refused to answer, or even listen to, Inner City Press' question about how much of the PGA's Office's $280,000 budget from the UN has been spent. Several correspondents at the UN say the amount has nearly or entirely all been spent. Has it been replenished?

UN General Assembly Resolution 53/214

13. Requests the Secretary-General to enhance the Office of the President of the General Assembly by taking all the necessary steps to ensure the full implementation of paragraph 1B.10 of the report of the Secretary-General entitled “United Nations reform: measures and proposals”,6 [A/52/303] as adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 52/220, so as to provide transparency and accountability and thereby strengthen the ability of the President of the General Assembly effectively and efficiently to discharge the responsibilities of the Office as deemed appropriate;

14. Decides that the President of the General Assembly, consistent with the approved programme budget, should have full authority to use the funds provided in the budget for the Office, including hospitality and travel and any other requirements for the accomplishment of the official responsibilities;

Paragraph 1B.10 of S-G report [A/52/303] provides

1B.10 In order to enhance further the ability of the President of the General Assembly to discharge his responsibilities, it is proposed that the budget include a sum of $250,000 for each year of the biennium to supplement the level of support currently provided. Consultations would be held with each President of the Assembly to determine the way in which these funds would be used to enhance support for his/her Office.

   Given this, can the funds be used without explanation to hire relatives? Are the funds in fact subject to audit by the UN Board of Auditors and investigation by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services? These are transparency and accountability questions, like the "how much has been spent" question which has still not been answered. Watch this site.

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Duo Without Budgets, Zelaya and d'Escoto, Fly Toward Honduras, Questions Proliferate

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 5 -- Two Central American figures, each with problems with public disclosure of their budgets and spending, sped toward Tegucigalpa on Sunday. Manuel Zelaya, ousted as Honduras' president after among other things failing to file the required budget in September 2008, was joined only by this year's President of the UN General Assembly Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, who used UN funds to hire two relatives and then refused to answer questions about it. Click here for Inner City Press' story on the matter.

   Ecuador's President Correa and thers who'd said they would join the quixotic flight went instead to El Salvador to wait to see what happened in the skies over Tegucigalpa. These more cautious leaders flew of the Argentine President's plane, Tango One. But it was difficult to determine on what plane the budgeting challenged duo was flying. One wag dubbed it "Loco One, the airline without budget." Who would rent or give a plane for such a venture?

   Since d'Escoto Brockmann's spokesman Enrique Yeves pointedly refused to answer any question about budgets or spending on or since June 29, it is impossible to shoot down rumors, probably false, that a UN plane was involved. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, meanwhile, notably said that UN peacekeepers should get involved in returning Zelaya to power.

   Honduras was raised in the UN Security Council on the morning of July 2, albeit only as a briefing by Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller in a consultation on the Council's program of work for July.

Flames in Honduras, budgetless duo in the air

   Sources in the closed door meeting told Inner City Press that Heller said that the Organization of American States process would have to play out first.

  The OAS Secretary General was among those who changed his destination from Tegucigalpa to San Salvador in light of the orders of Roberto Micheletti to stop any attempted landing. The applicability of international (and UN) law and rules regarding flights was also in question at Press time. Watch this site.

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At UN, Honduras Zeal Changes Ban's Rules, Overshadows $8 Billion Budget

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

UNITED NATIONS, July 1 -- With Manuel Zelaya's planned return to Honduras delayed at least two day to Saturday, at the UN on July 1 the question arose of who the UN recognizes as the current head of state. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Michele Montas was first asked about Iraq, whether Ban has written to Ahmadinejad to "congratulate" him on his election.

  Ms. Montas said not yet, but he will at the end of July when this term term begins. "We congratulate a government when it comes into place," she said. Who is the head of state is a "matter for the country to decide."

   But in Honduras, the Supreme Court has ruled that the ouster of Zelaya was legal. Montas recalled that Ban "asked for a return to the Constitutional order." Video here, from Minute 18:34. A country's Supreme Court enunciates its Constitution. In fact, to some it seems that the test Ban's UN applies to "who is the leader" is the finger in the wind test or, more specifically this year, the follow Barack Obama test.

   In the real world of diplomacy, the Permanent Representative to the UN of one of the Security Council's five Permanent Members on July 1 told the press of "skepticism" about Zelaya being able to return. Reportedly, he was to fly from Washington, accompanied by General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, to a U.S. base to pick up Ecuador's President Correa and, some said, some U.S. soldiers, and thence on to Honduras.

   The idea was that he would serve out his term and then return to his "ranch" - his money comes from timber exploitation. One wag joked that while the U.S. would like to use economic sanctions as a tool to pressure the current government to let Zelaya back in, his role in hardwood would make sanctions somehow ironic.

Zelaya and d'Escoto, UN budget and use of funds not shown

  The World Bank has put loans on hold. On July 1, the Inter-American Development Bank announced it will not be providing any new credit to Honduras. Obama has proposed over $60 million in development and military aid. Inner City Press would have asked about it on June 30, but d'Escoto Brockmann's spokesman Enrique Yeves did not allow the question.

   Strangely, while Yeves' job is ostensible to report about the General Assembly, and not Central American politics, he has yet to come and brief the Press about the over $8 billion peacekeeping budgets adopted Monday by the General Assembly. Could it be that in trying to avoid questions about d'Escoto Brockmann using smaller amounts of UN funds to hire two relatives, basic timely disclosure is now lacking about $8 billion in new spending? 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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