The president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega attended the Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), in Costa Rica, last January. He was accompanied by members of his close family.

For the event the president had appointed his wife, Rosario Murillo, as “Acting Chancellor of Nicaragua”, and two of his daughters, Camila and Luciana, as presidential advisers, while the oldest child,  Rafael, attended the meeting bearing a ministerial rank.

This family trip with the president, who is known as Commander Ortega in Nicaragua, shows one of the most common practices since Ortega returned to power in 2007: Nepotism as State Policy.

Since taking office, after almost two decades in the opposition, Ortega appointed his wife as government spokeswoman, so she would be in charge of the Communication and Citizenship Council, whose functions range from the management of government advertising, control of information to the public and the media, administration of everyday State affairs, handling of election campaigns for the FSLN, the organization of public events for the President, hosting official foreign visits, and so on.

With her new appointment, the first lady seems to be willing to direct foreign policy in Nicaragua, to the detriment of the official Foreign Minister Samuel Santos.

The Nicaraguan president has a list of 24 presidential advisers, including his son Laureano Ortega Murillo, investment advisor and who was in charge of contacting the Chinese businessman Wang Jing to negotiate the concession for the construction of an inter-oceanic canal in Nicaragua.

It is Laureano Ortega who has headed the presidential delegations to China and Russia, two emerging powers with which Daniel Ortega flirts. Russia has promised Nicaragua military support to fight drug trafficking, in addition to food aid and technical cooperation.

For analysts, the decision to appoint Ortega’s wife and children for public office, it is a clear violation of the Constitution and laws of integrity of the country, which is part of a long tradition of nepotism that began with the Spanish conquest and reached its highest expression during the Somoza dynasty, when power was passed to relatives for more than 40 years.

Nepotism was part of the colonial system, “says political analyst Carlos Tünnermann. The leaders come to power as a patrimonial thing, and see no evil in taking advantage of that in favor of their  own relatives,” he adds.

With the appointment of their children as advisors and his wife as a spokesperson of the Government and as chancellor, President Ortega violates the Constitution of Nicaragua, which was recently ammended for him to remain in power indefinitely.

Azahalea Solis, an expert on constitutional issues, says Ortega has violated Article 130 of the Constitution, which states that public officials, including the President can not appoint their relatives to state positions.

Solis explains that Ortega also violated the constitutional article 138, which determines that the appointment of a minister must be ratified by the National Assembly, which in the case of Murillo did not happen. “The Ortegas are like a feudal absolutist monarchy,” says Solis.

Deputy Eliseo Nunez, of the opposition Independent Liberal Party, said that by naming his relatives Ortega also violates the Law of Probity of Public Officials of Nicaragua, “which establishes an express prohibition on family serving public office.”

“It seems that Nicaragua is going to give birth to a new dynasty. Ortega says ‘My family is the family of power’, so family succession is already well underway. This is a reprint of Somoza,” criticizes the deputy.

Ortega holds the parliamentary majority, making it difficult for the opposition in the National Assembly to demand an explanation for the policy that allows relatives to hold office. What worries analysts is the negative image Ortega portrays internationally which is immediately linked to Nicaragua.

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