Speaking on behalf of President Daniel Ortega, Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos addressed the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday to trumpet his government’s advances in everything from the reduction of poverty and the promotion of gender equality to heroic victories in the war on drugs and less interesting efforts to combat Leptospirosis.
In addition to repeating timeless Sandinista boilerplate—from calls to recognize Argentina’s claim to the “Islas Malvinas” to half-hearted lobby on behalf of Puerto Rico’s independence movement—Santos spiced up his traditional rhetoric with a few unexpected causes that Nicaragua suddenly felt compelled to bring to the world stage. The most curious mention of the afternoon was Santos’ expression of solidarity with the Polisario Front and the Saharaui people of the Western Sahara, who were probably surprised to get a shout out from the Nicaraguan government.
After a long list of other mentions—from Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Palestine and the African Union, to Taiwan and CELAC—Santos eventually got to his sales pitch for Nicaragua’s proposed canal, which according to Nicaraguan law would be privately owned for 50 years by enigmatic Chinese businessman Wang Jing.
“Much has been said these days about the Great Canal of Nicaragua,” Santos told the UN. “With this project, our government proposes to attend to the unprecedented transformation in world maritime trade, which will continue to grow, between Asia and the Americas, and complement the expansion of the Panama Canal.”
Santos said the canal will be a project for “peace and development of all people,” and will be the patrimony for all of humanity. “A canal that is open to international investment with certainty and transparency. A canal that will realize the dreams of the General of Free Men, Augusto C. Sandino, and the people of Nicaragua,” Santos said.
After Santos’ speech, he met briefly with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for an unfocused, eyes-closed photo that appears to have been taken by the waiter using a 3-G cellphone. And with that low-resolution image, Nicaragua’s participation in the 68th UN General Assembly came to a blurry end.