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Cablegate: Bio Report: Unga President-Elect, Miguel D'escoto

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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 MANAGUA 000776

NOFORN
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN
DEPT ALSO FOR USOAS
DEPT FOR INR/IAA - EMERSON

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/16/2018
TAGS: PINR PREL UNGA NU
SUBJECT: BIO REPORT: UNGA PRESIDENT-ELECT, MIGUEL D'ESCOTO
BROCKMANN

REF: A. MANAGUA 500 AND PREVIOUS (NOTAL)
B. USUN 134 AND PREVIOUS (NOTAL)
C. 2007 MANAGUA 2008 (NOTAL)

Classified By: Ambassador Paul A. Trivelli for reasons 1.4 (b) & (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY. On June 4 Miguel Jeronimo d'Escoto Brockmann
of Nicaragua, a seventy-five-year-old U.S.-born and
-educated, Maryknoll Catholic priest, was elected by
acclamation to be President of the 63rd UN General Assembly
(UNGA). His election, as the sole candidate from the Latin
America Group (GRULAC), was the culmination of a carefully
planned, year-long campaign by the Government of Nicaragua
(GON) to install the former Sandinista Foreign Minister.
However, despite the GON's careful election campaign,
d'Escoto's aloof personal manner, his repeated and gratuitous
anti-U.S. outbursts, as well as his serious health problems,
may cloud his tenure as UNGA President.

2. (C) Miguel Jeronimo d'Escoto Brockmann was born in
Hollywood, California on February 5, 1933. His father,
Miguel d'Escoto Munoz, was a Nicaraguan diplomat who later
served as Nicaragua's ambassador to Rome (1955), Tokyo
(1972), Paris and the United Nations. The elder d'Escoto was
nicknamed "The Count" and universally considered a flamboyant
larger-than-life figure with a taste for the finer things in
life. (At the time of Miguel's Jr.'s birth, his father was
in Hollywood aspiring to be a film mogul.) He made a
considerable fortune in Nicaragua selling rather questionable
oil concessions with the connivance of President Somoza and
his family. In fact, Somoza was d'Escoto Brockmann's
godfather. Although Miguel's family returned to Nicaragua
shortly after his birth, between 1947 and 1961, he went back
to the United States to study, mainly at schools connected to
the Catholic Maryknoll Order. In early 1951, during a return
trip to Nicaragua he gave up his U.S. Citizenship. D'Escoto
earned a B.A. (1956) from St. Mary's College (Glen Ellen,
Illinois) and an M.A. (1961) from the Maryknoll Seminary
(Ossening, New York) and was ordained into the Order the same
year. In 1962, he completed an M.A. in journalism from
Columbia University. D'Escoto describes his family as
privileged, with a history of rebellion. Miguel's brother,
Francisco, also a diplomat, served with his father in Tokyo
and later returned as Ambassador himself. Francisco also
served in the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington and was the
Sandinista Ambassador to London (1984-87) and Lisbon (in
1987).

3. (S/NF) Some interlocutors have described him as
sophisticated and well-educated, and in the past, Embassy
officials have found him capable of arguing adroitly while
avoiding being pinned down by specifics. He has also been
described as arrogant, condescending and patronizing.
D'Escoto prefers to conduct meetings in Spanish, although he
speaks fluent English and understands some Italian and French.

4. (C) D'Escoto has a long history of social and political
activism, spending much of the 1960s working on housing and

MANAGUA 00000776 002 OF 004


social issues in Chile's poorest barrios. During
self-imposed exile to New York in the 1970s, d'Escoto served
as Director of Communications for the Maryknoll Order, where
he established ORBIS Publications, and was a founder of "Los
Doce (The Twelve)" -- a group of prominent, mostly-exiled,
Nicaraguan progressives, intellectuals and democratic
activists who openly supported the Sandinista National
Liberation Front (FSLN) against the Somoza regime. In 1979
d'Escoto returned permanently to Nicaragua and was named
Foreign Minister, a position he held until Ortega's electoral
defeat in 1990. Despite the title, during the 1980s d'Escoto
functioned more as a roving ambassador than foreign minister.
Policy was actually set by Vice Foreign Minister, Victor
Hugo Tinoco during this period. While Foreign Minister,
D'Escoto received the Lenin Peace Prize for 1985-86 and the
Thomas Merton Award for 1987.

(U) Censured by the Catholic Church

5. (C) The appointment as Foreign Minister placed d'Escoto
in conflict with the Vatican. In 1981, Pope John Paul II
ordered d'Escoto to resign his government position. D'Escoto
refused and, during a 1983 papal visit, the Pontiff publicly
censured d'Escoto and prohibited him from performing priestly
duties. The ban is still in effect; however, unlike
Nicaragua's Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, d'Escoto was
never defrocked. Foreign Ministry staff still -- and almost
reverently -- refers to him as &Padre (Father) d'Escoto.8
We have occasionally been corrected for failing to use the
title.

6. (C/NF) We also note that d'Escoto's personal life has long
been rumored to be characterized by aberrant behavior --
including pedophilia and necrophilia. We cannot judge the
truth of these rumors, but they do abound among the
chattering classes. We can relate one story, which we do
believe to be true. A local businessman has told us that
while inspecting his family homestead, then-recently
recovered as a property that had been confiscated by the
FSLN, he saw d'Escoto peering nervously over the wall from
the adjoining home. The next day, upon returning to his
house, the businessman noticed new planting had been done in
a small garden on his property. After inspection, he
discovered the garden hid a trapdoor entry to a series of
extensive cement tunnels bored into the mountain and
connected to several underground prison cells. The guards at
the house reported that the d'Escoto gardeners had come and
planted the new greenery earlier that same day.

(C) A Love-Hate Relationship with the United States

7. (S/NF) D'Escoto's original appointment as Foreign
Minister surprised many. In 1979, he was viewed as moderate,
even pro-U.S. in his views. Early in his tenure he
reportedly pressed for flexibility towards the United States;
however, by 1983 he had become highly critical of "U.S.
intransigence" and claimed the United States was the cause of
all Central America's ills. Knowledgeable Embassy contacts

MANAGUA 00000776 003 OF 004


have suggested that this behavior may indicate that d'Escoto
felt personally and professionally rebuffed by U.S.
"unwillingness" to engage with the Sandinista government
during the 1980s.

8. (S/NF) He has continued to speak against the United
States alleging that Americans "are worse terrorists than any
other." In August of 2007, d'Escoto's anti-U.S. public
statements reached new levels when he dismissed the gravity
of the September 11th attacks. During an August 13 speech
President Ortega said that the 3,000 deaths in New York on
September 11th were "insignificant" compared to the "acts of
U.S. genocide" in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that killed 120,000.
The next morning, during a TV interview, d'Escoto opined
that Ortega had been "very moderate" (muy suave) because he
had only included the number of immediate deaths in Japan,
not the total number of those who died as a result of
"genocidal" atomic bombs, "which was five times that number."
We also note the title of d'Escoto's April 3, 2006 op-ed
piece in Nuevo Diario -- "Trivelli: Is he an idiot or does
he just act that way?"

9. (C/NF) Despite his anti-U.S. statements, d'Escoto still
seems to hold a deep respect for American ideals of liberty
and freedom. He told Embassy officials that two of his four
"life heroes" are Americans ) Martin Luther King, Jr. and
Mother Mary Joseph Rogers, founder of the Maryknoll Sisters.
(The other two are Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevksy and
Mahatma Ghandi. According to Embassy officials, he has large
portraits of all four prominently displayed in the dining
room of his home).

(C) SERIOUS MEDICAL ISSUE

10. (S/NF) It has also been noted by Embassy officials that
d'Escoto is prone to unpredictable behavior, at once being
very calm and collected, and the next moment angrily
denouncing the United States. This is perhaps due to his
medical condition.

11. (C/NF) D'Escoto suffers from Meniere's disease
(mun-YAIRZ), an inner ear disorder that affects balance and
hearing. The cause of the condition is unknown, but may be
related to a fluid imbalance in the inner ear. In a
September 2007 meeting with Embassy officers, d'Escoto
complained that his ear problems limited his ability to hear,
walk, and maintain his balance. He is constantly attended by
aides, at least one of whom is also an ex-priest. D'Escoto
appears to have lost hearing in his left ear -- he positions
interlocutors so that his right ear is nearest them -- and
the condition now affects his right ear and could result in
permanent hearing loss. While there is no known cause or
cure for the condition, some medications can alleviate the
vertigo and nausea attacks. D'Escoto is covered by Maryknoll
Order medical insurance and periodically receives treatment
for his condition in the United States.

(U) The Road to UNGA: All for Naught?

MANAGUA 00000776 004 OF 004

12. (C/NF) Nicaragua nominated d'Escoto for the position of
UNGA President in August 2007 and quickly moved to obtain NAM
backing and ensure there would be no other candidates
nominated. However, as one senior Caribbean diplomat noted,
many GRULAC nations "were not impressed by Mr. d'Escoto's
curriculum vitae and there are serious questions in the group
about his health." As Foreign Minister in the 1980s,
d'Escoto offended and annoyed other diplomats with his harsh
rhetoric and vehement tirades -- often in public,
international forums. This quality has not diminished with
age. In April 2008, a GRULAC Ambassador in Managua recounted
a session between d'Escoto and local GRULAC Chiefs of Mission
that was described as "just plain frightening." D'Escoto
claimed that his mandate would be to remove the UN system
from the grip of the imperialist U.S. and "completely
re-order and reform" the UN and the way it treats the
developing world.

13. (S/NF) The unpredictable behavior and gratuitous
anti-U.S. attacks may prove serious impediments to d'Escoto's
leadership. When calm, his statements can seem logical, but
can turn unpredictable and full of ire in a matter of
moments. Though these erratic mood swings may be connected
to his medical condition. The combination of d'Escoto's deep
loathing of the U.S., his unpredictable personal demeanor and
possible lack of understanding of UN complexities may portend
an administration full of conflict, ill will and squandered
opportunities.
TRIVELLI

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