Move over Evita

I’m all in favor of more female participation in politics, but I prefer if it comes in the form of official participation.  The Miami Herald had an article about the concentration of power in Nicaragua behind Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo.  The photo below gives you an idea of why people bring up “flower child” when discussing her.  Apparently looks can be deceiving though.  After her daughter accused Ortega of molesting her as a child, Murillo sided with him, calling her daughter “mentally unstable” and an “enemy of the state.”  It’s rumored that she runs much of the government now, and that this was the quid-pro-quo of turning against her daughter.


So why do people say she has so much influence?  Here are some details:

1. “She presides over Cabinet meetings and makes most of the government’s public pronouncements.”

2. “Nearly every weekday, she speaks soothingly on state television, explaining public projects, discussing weather, touting the achievements of her husband’s political party, the Sandinista Front, and even showing her esoteric side, encouraging Nicaraguans to embrace “Mother Earth” and to act kindly to one another.”

3. Call any government official or any Sandinista Front deputy in the National Assembly, and he or she is unlikely to speak without Murillo’s OK.”

4. “She doesn’t let any Cabinet member talk. If there is a health problem, it is not the health minister who speaks. It is her,” said Oscar-Rene Vargas, a Swiss-trained sociologist who was a supporter of the Sandinista Front when it took power for the first time in 1979.”

5. “Her current list of titles starts with government spokeswoman. But she’s also Cabinet chief on all social issues and presides over the Councils of Citizen Power, ubiquitous neighborhood groups that channel food aid and other assistance.”

The president of the Nicaraguan-American Chamber of Commerce, Diego Vargas Montealegre, summed up the situation by stating “There’s a lot of concentration of power, and this is not good.” Couldn’t agree more. 

Some speculate that she is plotting her political future for after Ortega passes.  The article notes that Ortega is “said to suffer from debilitating lupus or another illness that prevents him from going outside much during daylight hours.” (Vampire?)

It definitely sounds like she aims to give Evita a run for her money.

Surprising Nicaraguan News

Two stories about Nicaragua caught my eye today.

First, President Daniel Ortega rushed to congratulate the newly elected President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández. This surprised me since Orlando Hernández is from a conservative party and was running against Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, wife of former president Manuel Zelaya.  When Zelaya was booted out of office by the military, Nicaragua was one of his most vigorous supporters at the time.  And lastly, the results were relatively close and Zelaya is rejecting the vote, saying that they were robbed.  Interesting that Ortega would rush to recognize the new president and promise to fortify ties between the two countries.

Second, and perhaps even more surprising, is the fact that Nicaragua has just been ranked by the UN as the second safest country in Latin America (when ranked by # of homicides and assaults).  The fact that Chile was #1 wasn’t too surprising, but Nicaragua as #2?  As one analyst points out, “Nicaragua’s ranking as the second safest country in the region has surprised analysts because the Central American nation shares a border with Honduras, which has been hit hard by drug-related violence.”



Don’t let the door hit you on the butt on the way out

Some leaders just never leave.  Take, for instance, Daniel Ortega.  I was hoping we’d seen the last of him 20 years ago, but he’s still here and he has no interest in leaving either.

The Nicaraguan government enacted a one-term rule for presidents in 1995 but Ortega scoffs at such puny restrictions.  The country enjoyed a nice 30+ hiatus from the former Sandinista, but that ended in 2007 when he returned to the presidency.  So how is he still president?  The NY Times reports that he “won re-election in 2011 after the Supreme Court issued a ruling blocking restrictions on a president running for a consecutive term, following a petition he and a group of mayors made.”

But that is apparently not enough.  His supporters are lobbying for an indefinite re-election rule, so Ortega can be re-elected again in 2016!  They are organized at least.  My favorite part of the NY Times article on the topic is the sentence noting that “Ortega has not said publicly whether he would like another term as president.”  That is a LOL indeed.