Nicaragua: how Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo strengthen their dictatorship

It is the epicenter of their inordinate supply. The residence of the President, Daniel Ortega, and his wife, Rosario Murillo, is a fortress in the heart of Managua, capital of Nicaragua, a Central American country of 6.6 million souls. Metal harrows, guarded by dozens of police officers, surround this luxurious bunker which serves as the presidential palace and family home. Behind these high walls, the fusional couple, united by a perverse pact, deployed a Machiavellian strategy to neutralize the opposition before the presidential and legislative elections on November 7.

Le président du Nicaragua Daniel Ortega (à droite), sa fille Camila Ortega (centre) et son épouse et vice-présidente Rosario Murillo (à gauche) lors du 40e anniversaire de la Révolution sandiniste, le 19 juillet 2019 à Managua

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (right), his daughter Camila Ortega (center) and his wife and vice-president Rosario Murillo (left) at the 40th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, July 19, 2019 in Managua

afp.com/INTI OCON

The former Sandinista guerrilla, soon to be 76, is running for the top job again, which would increase his terms to four consecutively. As for his faithful wife and vice-president (since 2017), also in her seventies, she will appear at his side for the second time on the ballots. In power since 2007, the political duo are certain to win after the arrest this summer of seven presidential candidates opposed to the regime, including the very popular Cristiana Chamorro, daughter of former president Violeta Chamorro (1990- 1997).

In addition, the Supreme Electoral Council, under the boot of the presidency, excluded all opposition groups. Only five small parties, satellites of the regime, remain in the running, to give the ballot an appearance of pluralism.

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Unpopular, the presidential couple (including 7 out of 10 inhabitants reject management) have been applying the scorched earth strategy for three years. The blind repression in 2018 against a peaceful uprising demanding the departure of the Ortega-Murillo tandem left more than 300 dead. Abuses assimilated by the United Nations human rights bodies to “crimes against humanity”.

Manifestation contre le gouvernement, le 17 juin 2018 à Managua, au Nicaragua

Demonstration against the government on June 17, 2018 in Managua, Nicaragua

afp.com/MARVIN RECINOS

Under international pressure, the couple released around 600 political prisoners – some tortured. But more than 150 are still behind bars. In recent years, 140,000 Nicaraguans have chosen exile. In this very Catholic country, the bloody repression marked a break with the ecclesiastical authorities (and employers), even if the Sandinista deputies had once voted to ban abortion. Even international outcry: Washington and the European Union have imposed financial sanctions on dozens of senior officials, including Rosario Murillo and several of the nine presidential children.

Since last year, the repressive spiral has shifted to the legislative and judicial fields. Majority in the Assembly, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN, so named in reference to Augusto Sandino, guerrilla of the 1930s), voted, at the end of 2020, freedom-killing laws, threatening with prison sentences independent journalists, leaders NGOs and opponents. “The maneuver decapitated the opposition to prevent a defeat announced at the ballot box”, indignant Sergio Ramirez, famous writer and former vice-president (1985-1990) of Daniel Ortega.

L'écrivan nicaraguayen Segio Ramirez, le 6 avril 2019 à Buenos Aires

Nicaraguan writer Segio Ramirez, April 6, 2019 in Buenos Aires

afp.com/JUAN MABROMATA

The latter is pleased, for his part, to have “foiled a coup attempt fomented by Washington”. And his wife calls the regime’s opponents “toxic groups”. “The duo has divided the roles, estimates the sociologist Oscar René Vargas. He manages political affairs in the shadows, she stewardship in the light.” Every day, at sharp noon, the eccentric poet distills a political discourse on television channels imbued with references to “God”, to “love” and to the “sense of family”.

“They got their hands on all the powers”

Nicaraguans nickname her “la Chamuca” (the Devil) for her taste for esotericism and her colorful New Age outfits. Inspired, the first lady revamped her husband’s Marxist regime, replacing the traditional FSLN red and black with fuchsia pink, her favorite color. Today, the government declares itself “socialist, Christian and united”.

“This devilish couple share the same thirst for power, continues Oscar René Vargas. They have taken over political, police, judicial and economic powers, from electoral fraud and unnatural alliances.” According to him, “their regime is no longer Sandinista, but orteguist”, far from the ideals of the revolution which had put an end, in 1979, to the appalling dictatorship of the Somoza family.

Defeated in the 1990 presidential election, “Daniel” regained power through the ballot box in 2007 with the support of the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (Alba), of which Cuba and Venezuela are the pillars. Then he kept it. Despite a systematically “anti-capitalist” and “anti-Yankee” discourse, Nicaragua destines 60% of its exports to the United States. But the presidential couple is not close to a contradiction.

Accused of incest, Daniel Ortega has never been worried

And he stands up to everything, including the incest accusations launched in 1998 by Zoilamérica Murillo. Born of a first union, Rosario Murillo’s daughter accuses her father-in-law of raping her from the age of 11. The scandal could have ruined the political career of the then-opposition FSLN leader. But his wife supported him mordicus, calling his daughter a “mythomaniac.”

By a kind of elevator return, Ortega hoisted Murillo to the top of a power that became two-headed in 2017, which turns into a dynasty. If Zoilamérica had to go into exile in Costa Rica, the couple’s other eight children hold government adviser positions or control parts of the economy, from gasoline distribution to hotels, wood to the main television channels. , benefiting from generous public contracts.

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“The couple seeks to establish a family dictatorship by privatizing public institutions,” said former relative Sergio Ramirez. For the novelist, forced into exile by the threat of an arrest warrant, history repeats itself: “Ortega became the dictator he had fought.”


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