Daniel Ortega has been elected for the third term as president of Nicaragua, with opposition parties complaining that he rigged its outcome.
Now that his wife Rosario Murillo has officially become vice president, analysts fear he might ultimately set up a family dynasty in the Central American country.
Some attribute his success to the popularity of his social welfare programs, while a few blame it on poor voter turnout. Although pre-poll surveys had predicted his victory, it turned out be a cakewalk in the end because many opposition supporters refused to vote as a sign of protest.
The United States has expressed deep concern at the vote, with a State Department spokesman saying the election process was flawed and did not seem free and fair. In fact, members of the opposition coalition Broad Front for Democracy (FAD) had called the elections a “farce” even before the voting began.
Now the rise of his wife to the key position has strengthened his critics, who have often accused the couple of running the Central American country like their personal fiefdom. Nicaragua’s economy is indeed growing, but the country is still Western Hemisphere’s second-poorest country.
With Ortega’s social welfare programs continue to drain the economy, analysts say Nicaragua may find it hard to withstand if an economic storm hits it hard just the way it did in Venezuela.
“Nicaragua’s susceptibility to external shocks stemming from its trade and financing links with Venezuela has been considered a relevant credit weakness,” US ratings agency Moody’s warned recently. Nicaragua pays for oil imports from Venezuela at full market price, but then receives half the amount back in the form of concessional loans.
Nicaragua’s economy has grown by an average of 5.2% per year over the past five years, but government debt ratio has remained at around 30% of GDP.
But this deal with Venezuela has helped Ortega, a one-time Marxist guerilla leader, to keep fuel prices at record low. Thanks to populist programs, poverty has fallen almost 13 percentage points under his rule.