MANAGUA – Catholic priest and former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Miguel D’Escoto died on Thursday after a long illness, the government reported. He was 84.
D’Escoto, who was president of the United Nations General Assembly from 2008-2009, died in a Managua hospital, first lady and Vice President Rosario Murillo said, reading a communique.
The government headed by Sandinista Daniel Ortega expressed its “profound dismay and sadness” over the death of D’Escoto, the first priest to occupy the UN presidency.
D’Escoto was born Feb. 5, 1933, in Los Angeles and was ordained a priest of the Maryknoll Missionary Society in New York in 1961.
As an adherent of the doctrine of “liberation theology,” he secretly joined the Nicaraguan Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).
He began collaborating with the FSLN in 1975 through the Solidarity Committee in the US and backed the armed revolution that on July 19, 1979, overthrew the Somoza dictatorship that had ruled Nicaragua for 42 years.
After the triumph of the Sandinista revolution, D’Escoto was named foreign ministry by the Ortega government.
Authorized by his congregation to serve as foreign minister for the leftwing government, D’Escoto was suspended as a priest by The Vatican.
During his tenure as foreign minister, Nicaragua sued the US in 1984 before the International Court of Justice at The Hague, which ruled against Washington in 1986 and ordered it to pay reparations to Managua, which the US never did.
In Ortega’s first defeat at the polls on Feb. 25, 1990, losing to Violeta Chamorro, D’Escoto was elected to a seat in the Nicaraguan Congress.
After Ortega’s return to power in January 2007, D’Escoto was named an adviser to the president on border issues and international relations.
Pope Francis reinstated him as a priest in 2014.