One of the most vocal and powerful proponents of Catholic liberation theology, Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, has died. Rosario Murillo - wife of Nicaraguan President and former terrorist Daniel Ortega -- announced his death to the Central American republic’s national assembly on Thursday. D’Escoto died on June 8.
D’Escoto grew up as the privileged son of a Nicaraguan diplomat. His baptismal godfather was Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza Garcia. Bearing the full name Felix Miguel Jerónimo d'Escoto, he died in Nicaragua at the age of 84 years.
According to a press release from the Maryknoll order of Catholic priests and religious, which is the missionary organization of the Roman Catholic bishops of the United States, he was ordained to the Catholic priesthood on June 10, 1961 at Maryknoll, New York. The release notes that he had assignments for many years among the poor of Chile, aiding them with legal aid, community organization and leadership training. He also served for a decade directing the Maryknoll Social Communications Department, founding Orbis Books, the publishing division of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.
The press release noted, “At several times during his mission work, Father d'Escoto was released from his Maryknoll assignments to serve, first, as foreign minister in the Nicaraguan government and, second, as president of the United Nations General Assembly. He retired during 2002 and became a member of the Maryknoll Senior Missioner Community with residency in Nicaragua.” There was no mention in the release of his initially covert membership in the Sandinista leftist movement (FSLN) which during the 1960s and 1970s engaged in increasingly violent and deadly acts directed at bringing down the right-wing pro-American regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle, his godfather’s son. Among the actions to the overthrow of Somoza in which D’Escoto was involved was the 1974 killing of Nicaragua’s minister of agriculture. The American ambassador had left the party given by the minister just minutes before an armed attack by Sandinista terrorists.
D'Escoto first openly admitted his support for the FSLN as one of twelve major political figures in 1977. Once the Sandinistas took power in 1979, D’Escoto became foreign minister in dictator Daniel Ortega's government from 1979 to 1990. During his time as foreign minister, D’Escoto received the Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union. After leaving government when the Sandinistas lost the Nicaraguan general election in 1990, D'Escoto led the Communal Movement but resigned that post in December 1991. He continued to support Ortega against Sandinista dissenters. He was condemned by Israel's Ambassador to the U.N Gabriela Shalev in 2008, who called D'Escoto an "Israel-hater" because D'Escoto "hugged" Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after the latter’s strongly anti-Israel speech to the UN General Assembly.
During a visit to Central America, Pope John Paul II publicly admonished D’Escoto, as well as Minister of Culture Ernesto Cardenal -- also a Catholic priest -- for his involvement in politics. The pope denounced D’Escoto, as well as the two Cardenal brothers, Ernesto and Fernando, because they had engaged in political activity against the law of the Catholic Church. The priestly faculties of all three were suspended by order of the pope in 1985. It was in August 2014 that Pope Francis lifted the suspension. D’Escoto argued that the suspension was unfair, while asking to celebrate the Mass before his death. In 1986, D'Escoto insulted and condemned Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo of Managua on television for not siding with the Sandinista regime against the so-called Contras: rebels supported by the United States who sought to bring down the leftist government. In 1999, Cardinal Obando y Bravo condemned D’Escoto and the Cardenal brothers for their political activity.
In 2008, D’Escoto was appointed to a one-year term as president of the General Assembly of the United Nations. He continued his anti-U.S. stance, having once called Ronald Reagan a “butcher” and George W. Bush his “spiritual heir.” As his advisers, D'Escoto designated 16 prominent leftists and adherents of Liberation Theology: Brother David Andrews, C.S.C. (USA), Maude Barlow (Canada), Mohammed Bedjaoui (Algeria), Leonardo Boff (Brazil), Kevin Cahill (USA), François Houtart (Belgium), Noam Chomsky (USA), Ramsey Clark (USA), Richard Falk (USA), Michael Kennedy (USA), Eleonora Kennedy (USA), Olivier De Schutter (Belgium), Joseph Stiglitz (USA), Sir John E. Sulston (UK), Francisco Lacayo Parajón (Nicaragua) and Howard Zinn (USA).
It was during D’Escoto’s time in government that his fellow Sandinistas committed serial human rights abuses that were documented by human rights groups such as the Puebla Institute and Americas Watch and reported by media outlets such as The New York Times.
The press release from Maryknoll did not mention the Vatican’s suppression of D’Escoto’s priestly faculties nor his involvement with a socialist government -- aligned with the Soviet Union, Cuba, Libya, and East Germany -- that engaged in torture, abduction, extra-judicial killings, and suppression of basic human freedoms. However, the press release did note the following: “Memorial donations in Father d'Escoto's name may be made to the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, P.O. Box 302, Maryknoll, NY 10545.”
Another Maryknoller famed for involvement with leftist causes was Thomas Melville, a priest who was ejected from Guatemala by that country’s government because of his involvement with anti-government leftist forces.