All the world knows Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s president (1979 to 1990 and 2005 – present) and a leader in the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, FSLN). But few know the other half of what can be described as Nicaragua’s “real couple”, Rosario Murillo.
The Colombian newspaper, El Tiempo, recently described Murillo as “the mystical shadow of president Daniel Ortega”.
Murillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua on June 22, 1951, is a poet and revolutionary who fought in the Sandinista revolution in 1979. She married Daniel Ortega and had 8 children. According to Nicaraguan historian Roberto Sánchez, Murillo is maternally related to Nicaragua’s national hero, Augusto Sandino.
According to the Wikepedia bio, Murillo attended high school at the Greenway Convent Collegiate School in Tiverton in Great Britain and studied Art at the Institut Anglo-Suisse Le Manoir at La Neuveville in Switzerland. Murillo possesses certificates in the English and French language, granted respectively by the University of Cambridge in Great Britain, and University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. She also attended the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in her hometown, where she later became a language professor at the Instituto de Ciencias Comerciales and the Colegio Teresiano during 1967-1969.
Murillo joined the Sandinista National Liberation Front in 1969. She provided shelter in her house, which was located in the Barrio San José Oriental in Managua, to Sandinista guerrillas, among them Tomás Borge, one of the founders of the FSLN.
During the early 1970s Murillo worked for La Prensa as an assistant to two of Nicaragua’s leading political and literary figures, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro and Pablo Antonio Cuadra. Murillo was arrested in Estelí for her activities in politics. Soon after, she fled and lived a couple months in Panama and later in Venezuela. She later fetched up in Costa Rica where she dedicated herself completely to her political work with the FSLN. It wasn’t until 1978 that she met her husband, with whom she returned to Nicaragua in 1979. From 1988 – 1990 she served as the Director of the Institute of Culture.
Today, Murillo is by Ortega’s side every step of the way. It is almost impossible to obtain a recent image of Nicaragua’s president without Murillo. This, because besides being Ortega’s wife, she is also the head of the Cabinet and official spokesperson for the government of Nicaragua.
In Nicaragua, it is said that the day-to-day decisions of the government are made by Murillo: it is she who decides what ministers should say, when they say something, given her order not to give statements to the independent press. It is also Murillo who appoints and dismisses government officials.
It is Murillo who leads the nation in place of President Ortega, as happened initially after Nicaragua learning of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling with Colombia, according to El Tiempo.
Ortega’s wife is who receives presidents and official guests to Nicaragua instead of Foreign Minister Samuel Santos and possiblymost important, controls the feared and controversial Consejos del Poder Ciudadano (CPC) – Citizen Power Councils – the political wing of the FSLN that is present in barrios and communities around the country, which are said to be the eyes and ears of the government.
Murillo demands she be called ‘compañera Rosario’.
“La compañera” can be described as “super minister”, a character ubiquitous in the Ortega, who is always present: is personal assistant, translator and spokesperson.
Those who have known her define her as educated and a lover of poetry, but also as mystical, spiteful and vindictive.
Murillo has made mysticism an element of the Nicaraguan government. She herself decorates the official floorboards with flowers and religious and mystical symbols, as the “Mano de Fátima”, to ensure good luck in all official acts.
“Murillo lives and professes the world of spirituality and the supernatural. Her trademark are very thin tights on tabby legs, 30 rings on her hands, a dozen necklaces, a dozen bracelets, and round glasses, in a John Lennon style, far from the traditional figure of first ladies,” wrote journalist Octavio Enriquez in a profile of Rosario.
Sources who for obvious reasons prefer anonymity say that her alleged ambitions of power can unleash strong divisions between the circles close to Ortega, who apparently do not trust the first lady and dear she wants to success her husband.
Feminists criticize Murillo for her staunch defence Ortega when her daughter, Zoilamérica Narváez, accused him of sexual abuse as a child.
With files From El Tiempo, Wikipedia, La Prensa and 19 Digital