Nicaragua Congress votes to scrap presidential term limits

If the measure is ratified, President Daniel Ortega could seek reelection in 2016 and indefinitely.

If the measure is ratified, President Daniel Ortega could seek reelection in 2016 and indefinitely.

MANAGUA, December 11, 2013 (AFP) - Nicaragua’s Congress Tuesday approved a constitutional reform that, if ratified, would scrap term limits, enabling President Daniel Ortega to seek reelection in 2016 and indefinitely, an official said.

For the changes to go into effect, the bill must be passed a second time in a new legislative session in 2014.

Thanks to the overwhelming majority Ortega’s ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front enjoys in the Congress, the bill easily cleared its first hurdle by a vote of 64 to 26.

The proposed changes would eliminate term limits on the presidency and allow the appointment of active duty police and military officials to government offices currently reserved for civilians.

A brief debate in the Congress was held with little resistance from the opposition, which has been splintered by infighting and weak leadership.

“Ortega’s supporters, with extreme political shortsightedness, are pushing Nicaragua to the depths of a new civil war,” warned opposition lawmaker Armando Herrera.

In the streets outside, however, dozens of people protested the reforms which they said were aimed at perpetuating Ortega’s rule.

The protest was organized by an emerging alliance of civic groups and opposition parties.

Ortega, a leader of the leftist guerrilla movement that overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, was the country’s leader from 1979 to 1990.

He served first as the coordinator of a ruling junta and then was elected to his first term as president in 1985. He was later re-elected to two more terms in 2007 and in 2011.

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    • McDemon

      Costa Rica better hurry up and squeeze as much as they can out of their new border extortion er….exit fee. Once Ortega has the power described above, the guerrillas will come down from the hills to make their opposition known in a very vocal and violent manner. The only people crossing the border up in Peñas Blancas will be itinerant Nicas and truck drivers. Its funny how the border tax implementation turned into a cluster fuck because even the incompeticos in government know that if trusted to collect the fee in cash, their own people would rob them blind.

    • NorthendFool

      Soon there may be a socialist running CR. Their rant is based on being a victim and blaming someone else. Show me a country in Latin America where a dictator runs things and I will show you a country that has nothing. Ortega and his henchmen know their paydays will end if someone else is President. Free money from Venezuela, China, Iran, N. Korea. All the usuals. Talk shit about the U.S.A. and get a free tanker of oil.

    • Anthony
    • Anthony
      • Frank Castle

        Just wait until the American investors and retirees get ripped off or throw in the clink once Ortega has sucked enough of them in to the country.

        • Anthony

          Ripped off? Do you mean like “The Brothers”. “The Cubans” ” The Vault’ and so on. Do you mean like squatters, etc. All the preceding happened or happens en Costa Rica. Get a grip Frank.

          • Frank Castle

            I know Costa Rica has these issues but they have already been several cases of Americans jailed in Nicaragua for dubious reasons in the last few years.

        • Anthony

          Now that I think of it. Google “Roger Crouse, Costa Rica” Also Google “Max Dalton, Pavones Costa Rica” I must be dealing with newbies.

    • Frank Castle

      Just as predicted, Ortega and his Sandinista THUGS have continued the downward spiral toward a Socialist Dictatorship since they got back into office. At the rate they are going, soon, they will be no better than the Somoza family.

      The Who said it best….”Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!”

      • Ken Morris

        The saying in Nicaragua is “same shit, different flies,” with due apologies to the Who. People long ago realized that they have a reincarnation of the Somozas.

        However, there are two important caveats. One is that it’s NEVER been any different. Chamoro wasn’t, Aleman wasn’t, and while Bolaños kind of was, the country was really run by the pact between Ortega and Aleman during his term. Prior to the Somozas, it was the same shit with different flies too.

        The other caveat is that I believe you are mistaken in your other comment about American investors and retirees eventually getting ripped off. Some might (and most who do will deserve it) but Ortega is actually doing an outstanding job attracting investors and otherwise goosing economic development. There are definitely areas of dictatorial concern, but in most areas Ortega is hands down the best dictator Nicaragua has ever had.

        Nicaragua is the kind of case that ought to be in civics textbooks but isn’t. The choices isn’t between pristine democracy on one hand and dictatorial thugs on the other, but between which group of dictatorial thugs you want.

        Personally, I think Ortega is going too far, but since I’m acquainted with his reasoning and tend to credit it, I know that he carefully calibrates his authoritarianism. Many years ago he concluded that Allende in Chile made the mistake of being too democratic, but simultaneously decided that Nicaragua didn’t need an authoritarianism as tough as Cuba’s. Since then he has tried to carve out a middle path of soft authoritarianism. I’m hard-pressed to say he is wrong.

        And we can look at the bright side. If Ortega isn’t reelected the next time, odds are his looney wife Rosario Murillo will be. Believe me, he’s doing Nicaragua and the world a favor to keep her from ascending to the presidency.

        PS. The real problem with the constitutional reforms the Sandinistas are pushing through is not the absence of term limits or allowing military types to serve, but that they will institutionalize Murillo’s neighborhood committees. It’s spooky authoritarian stuff when every neighborhood has an appointed guardian of morals reporting to the daffy First Lady.