Nicaragua’s Ortega puts wife as VP on re-election ballot

August 3, 2016

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — President Daniel Ortega put his wife, Rosario Murillo, down as his future vice president on a joint ticket for his re-election in a November 6 vote.

The unusual step, announced Tuesday, cemented Murillo’s political ascent. Currently, the first lady is a government minister and the main spokesperson for Ortega’s administration.

For many in Nicaragua, with her higher public profile, Murillo is seen as wielding the real power in the country over the past decade.

Ortega and Murillo officially submitted their candidacy to the country’s electoral tribunal on Tuesday, accompanied by their Sandinista party’s legal adviser.

Hundreds of party supporters applauded the couple when they left the building.

If Ortega, 70, wins a third consecutive term from 2017 to 2022, as many expect given the fragmented opposition, Murillo, 65, would replace current Vice President Moises Omar Halleslevens Acevedo.

The opposition fears her promotion sets the scene for a family dynasty in charge of the poor Central American nation.

Ortega is a former leftwing rebel who has made many moves that opposition critics consider authoritarian.

He has notably said he will not permit foreign observers to monitor the November 6 elections, which will also choose a new legislature.

Ortega has presented his wife as a legitimate politician in her own right, and stressed that women represent 40 percent of his government.

Public opinion surveys suggest Murillo has more than 80 percent support.

“There are no legal obstacles to Murillo being presented for election as vice president or even president,” a political analyst and former diplomat, Carlos Tunnerman, said.

A mother of 10 children — three of them from unions predating Ortega — and fluent in English and French, Murillo is a recognized poet in her country.

Like her husband, she was a member of the leftwing Sandinista rebels who took power in 1979.

She kept a low profile when Ortega was president between 1985 and 1990.

But when he came back from the political wilderness in 2007 to start his current government, she moved to the fore.

Known for wearing flamboyantly colorful outfits and jewelry reminiscent of the hippy 1960s, she has sought to put her stylistic stamp on the capital Managua.

There, she ordered the erection along the main roads of multi-colored metal “trees of life” that are lit up at night.

Recommended: Nicaragua capital transformed into first lady’s new-age vision

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