Friday, November 26

Rosario Murillo, ‘co-president’: Ortega consolidates family power in Nicaragua | International

A man walks in front of a propaganda poster showing Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and the newly appointed 'co-president' Rosario Murillo.
A man walks in front of a propaganda poster showing Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and the newly appointed ‘co-president’ Rosario Murillo.STRINGER (Reuters)

Sitting at her right hand, Rosario Murillo blushed slightly and added a flattering gesture when President Daniel Ortega, her husband, named her “co-president” of Nicaragua last Monday. The appointment is de facto because it is not contemplated by the Constitution that the Sandinista leader reformed in 2014 to stay in power indefinitely. It was a public and teletransmitted act, one of the few that the presidential couple has starred in during an electoral campaign without competition, which will end without major fuss three days before November 7, the date on which general elections will be held without guarantees and loaded with questions about its legitimacy.

Ortega presided over an act of handover of Russian buses amid the disenchantment of the majority caused by the liquidation of the elections, the repression and the imprisonment of his critics, according to the latest CID-Gallup poll. The president was accompanied by one of the very few remaining international allies, Russia, through the ambassador in Managua, Alexander Khokhólikov, and other Moscow envoys who relied on a translator to understand Ortega’s praise to his wife and acting vice president.

“Here [en Nicaragua] we have two presidents because we respect the 50-50 principle, that is, here we have a co-presidency with comrade Rosario “, proclaimed Ortega, referring to the” gender equity model “in public office, which has served to justify the position de Murillo in the first line of the constitutional succession, as well as his omnimous preponderance in the government and the Sandinista party.

“Every day he is communicating with our people, making known everything that is being done for the benefit of Nicaraguan families, without making political differences, without making ideological differences, there are works multiplying every day in our country,” he remarked. Ortega to his foreign guests, and emphasized the appointment by touching Murillo’s shoulder. It is not the first time that her husband and president have granted her such a high rank.

In the 2016 electoral campaign, when Ortega had not imprisoned all his opponents as now, he registered Murillo as his presidential formula, going over the old Sandinista guard, who showed a tacit rejection of the vice presidency “of the woman of the commander ”for clashes and differences with her. The first lady thus formalized her promotion to the first line of command of the Executive, after informally exercising a kind of rank of “super minister” since 2007, when Ortega returned to the presidency, a position that was carved out with constancy and whose genesis of influence Many critics locate in the cover-up of the sexual abuse that his daughter, Zoilamérica, denounced at the hands of her partner.

The appointment of co-president acquires notoriety in a context in which the presidential couple has completely closed the democratic space, and has made an election to suit them, which consolidates a “family dictatorship and a one-party regime”, in which the dissent is paid for with prison. Persecuted opponents have classified the elections as “a sham” whose result is “illegitimacy.” In addition, they see in this appointment several political measures that Ortega takes.

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“There are several readings. The first is that this appointment is intended to consolidate the family dictatorship, but it also reveals Ortega’s fear of his own disappearance due to age or health effects, ”Óscar René Vargas, a Sandinista political analyst and dissident, told EL PAÍS. “She is preparing the political stage so that Murillo can succeed him without fracture and without protest within Ortega, because there has been too much demonstration that she does not enjoy the support of the Ortega base. It’s like reinforcing the succession. Although he already guaranteed it by appointing her vice president, now he is trying to make the social base that listens to him accept that Murillo is the successor ”.

Sources from the old Sandinista guard, who out of fear ask not to be identified, agreed that Murillo has always had presidential aspirations. However, the 2018 protests, which were brutally repressed by police and paramilitaries, shattered the prospect of succession desired by the first lady. Especially because the government’s main allies, such as the private sector, the church, and even the United States itself, broke with the Sandinista administration. The official response was more repression and persecution, aggravating the socio-political crisis that, according to analysts, could have been overcome with a free and competitive election.

Murillo has been sanctioned on three occasions and singled out by the international community for committing serious human rights violations, being responsible for the dismantling of democratic institutions and acts of corruption. All of this has been combined to “hinder his presidential dream,” the Sandinista sources insist.

“Ortega is also trying to give this approval to Murillo, because I cannot offer to be the candidate for the presidency. She aspired to the candidacy this year… and then Ortega came up with the Solomonic solution of appointing her co-president, without having the legal capacity to be effective, ”Vargas remarks.


As of the 2018 crisis, the idea that Murillo only dealt with the administrative part of the Government, while Ortega dealt with major political decisions, especially before big business and the armed forces, became obsolete. For example, leaked emails from Murillo exposed that she led the response to the protests against Ortega. She was the author of the phrase “let’s go with everything,” the order she gave to the police and the Sandinista apparatus to use violence against the protesters. That is why ex-congressman Enrique Sáenz, exiled in Costa Rica, prefers to call her a “co-dictator” and not co-president.

“Considering that this electoral pantomime apparently no one attributes valid results to it, continuing to call Ortega president would be an implicit recognition. Hence, I would lean more to ‘co-signer’. I think that his (presidential) dream is not truncated and his aspirations are as alive as ever. As long as Ortega has life, she will not have a chance. The problem is that without Ortega, his opportunity would also be very limited, ”says Sáenz.

Haydée Castillo, social scientist, political analyst and also persecuted by the Ortega-Murillo regime, not only believes that the “co-presidency” seals “a dynastic dictatorial system mixed with nepotism”, but also shows that the presidential couple’s circle of trust is every day more closed.

“They are becoming increasingly mistrustful when they see that their project is totally unsuccessful and that in these times it is probably only sustained by repression, by state terrorism, by the role of the security forces with their repression. But they are very clear that every day their internal and external legitimacy is more decadent, ”Castillo emphasized. Meanwhile, at noon this Thursday, Co-President Murillo vividly declared in her daily address: “Here we are, always, always worthy, always, always free, always working to consolidate peace and good.”

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