Thursday, July 9, 2009

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

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at UN

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.

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.

And see,