MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega reappeared in public Monday after a 10-day absence that had sparked rumors he was sick or even dead.
He did so at Managua’s international airport as he received Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, arriving from the Vatican after a visit with Pope Francis.
“You have carried out the miracle of resurrecting me, because a lot of people thought I was dead,” said a smiling Ortega, who is 68.
Rumors had been flying in this Central American country because of Ortega’s 10-day absence from official ceremonies.
The rumors were accentuated last Thursday when Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa cancelled a planned visit to Managua.
The Quito government said it was because of scheduling problems cited by the Nicaraguan government.
Ortega also cancelled – via his wife, First Lady Rosario Murillo – an annual commemoration of a battle in which his brother was killed more than three decades ago.
Many had speculated as to the president’s health, some even spreading the rumor he has sought treatment in Cuba.
Ortega and Murillo, who is the official Sandinista spokeswoman, joined thousands of catholics and Sandinista youth to welcome Brenes.
“Welcome, in the name of our people, who love you,” Ortega told the cardinal, who brought greetings for the Nicaraguan leader from the pope.
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Brenes, 64, who posed with Ortega in front of television cameras, is the second cardinal from Nicaragua, following the influential catholic leader Miguel Obando, named cardinal in 1985 by Pope John Paul II.
After returning to power in 2007, Ortega shifted mightily toward the Catholic faith, along with his wife, Murillo.
Following the holy meet-and-greet, Ortega took off for Venezuela, where he plans to take part in the first anniversary commemoration of the death of his colleague, former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
“We have to head to Venezuela, because we have the anniversary” of Chávez’s death, Ortega said on Monday night.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is planning a large civic and military parade on Wednesday for Chávez, who died of cancer a year ago. The ceremony will take place as Venezuela has been plunged in chaos for the past few weeks over violent anti-government protests.