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Former Nicaragua Sandinista Leader Named Libya’s UN Envoy

Former Nicaragua Sandinista Leader Named Libya’s UN Envoy

Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, a former foreign minister of Nicaragua’s socialist Sandinista government and one-time president of the United Nations General Assembly, has been named by Muammar Qaddafi’s regime as Libya’s ambassador to the UN.

Former Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa informed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the nomination in a letter dated March 29. It said D’Escoto Brockmann was named to the post because Ali Abdussalam Treki, also a former General Assembly president who was chosen to represent the Qaddafi government at the UN, couldn’t get a visa to enter the U.S.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said D’Escoto Brockmann is in the U.S. on a tourist visa that doesn’t allow him to represent Libya. She said he would have to leave the U.S. and reapply for the appropriate type of visa to assume his position.

Noting that Koussa resigned today from Qaddafi’s government, Rice questioned whether D’Escoto Brockmann “has actually been appointed in any legitimate fashion.” She said that if he “purports to be or acts like a representative of a foreign government on a tourist visa he will soon find that his visa status will be reviewed.”

D’Escoto Brockmann, a Catholic priest who was General Assembly president in 2008 and 2009, once said former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were “possessed by the demons of manifest destiny.”

Former Foreign Minister

D’Escoto was Nicaragua’s foreign minister for the Sandinista government as it fought U.S.-backed contra rebels during the nation’s 1980s civil war.

He called Reagan a “butcher of my people” for supporting a rebellion that caused Nicaraguans to suffer “something much bigger than the Twin Towers,” a reference to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

Nicaragua’s government said in a statement that D’Escoto Brockmann received instructions from Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to “accept this nomination and represent the people and government of Libya to re-establish peace and defend their legitimate right to resolve their national conflicts without foreign intervention.”

Gas on Fire

Ortega, a leader of the Sandinista revolution in 1979, has said bombings of Qaddafi’s forces are part of a U.S.-led conspiracy to gain control of Libya’s oil wealth. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and former Cuban President Fidel Castro have made the same allegation.

“This military deployment not only terrorizes the Libyan people but the entire region along the Mediterranean, as if the tragedy in Afghanistan and Iraq weren’t enough,” Ortega said in a March 19 speech. “The remedy is worse than the illness. You don’t put a fire out by throwing gas on it.”

Libya’s central bank last month pardoned $195.8 million of Nicaragua’s $313.6 million debt dating to Ortega’s first term as president in the 1980s, said Martin Urcuyo, spokesman for Nicaragua’s central bank.

Qaddafi’s support for the Sandinista movement dates to as early as the 1970s, when Sandinistas received guerrilla training in Libya under Qaddafi’s coup-installed government, said Kevin Casas-Zamora, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

Ortega’s Debt

“There’s an old story here,” Casas-Zamora said. “An old debt that Ortega is trying to repay.”

Ortega traveled repeatedly to Libya to seek support for his campaign to return to power after he was voted out in a 1990 election, said former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Francisco Aguirre. Ortega was elected to a second term in 2006 and seeks to stay in office in a November vote.

The Qaddafi regime hasn’t been represented at the UN since the credentials of Ambassador Mohammed Shalgham and Deputy Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi were withdrawn following Treki’s nomination. Shalgham and Dabbashi broke with Qaddafi to support imposition of the no-fly zone and other sanctions against Libya.

Dabbashi, who said he is still working out of Libya’s mission to the UN and representing the rebel-led Transitional National Council, called D’Escoto Brockmann a “mercenary.”

Farhan Haq, deputy UN spokesman, said Ban hasn’t received the letter from Koussa.

(Updates with comments from Rice in third-fourth paragraphs.)