Move over, Claire Underwood. First Lady of Nicaragua Rosario Murillo is here to take your spot. Murillo is on the ticket as vice president in the upcoming November 6 election with her husband, President Daniel Ortega, New York Times reports.
Although Murillo holds the title of first lady, many Nicaraguans already view her as an overly influential and powerful political figure. If Ortega wins his third consecutive term, the victory will be seen as solidifying the couple’s place in Nicaraguan history. Agustín Jarquín, Oretga’s 2001 running mate, told the Times, “She’s not the vice president; she’s the co-president.” Murillo’s daughter, Zoilamérica Ortega, also emphasizes this point: “Denying something to my mother is a declaration of war.”
Murillo is essentially already a “de facto cabinet member,” according to the Times. She gives briefings on subjects from natural disasters to the Zika virus and often meets with local leaders. Florencia del Carmen López, a street vendor, told the Times, “It’s not that she has as many followers as her husband — she has more.” She continued, “The men are annoyed by it. The majority of her followers are women.”
Other politicians, such as Sergio Ramírez, view Murillo’s rise to power as “an extreme search for legitimacy.” Ramírez said, “There were signals: Little by little, her face started showing up as the face on the political propaganda, at first with Daniel and then alone.”
Ortega and Murillo have seven children together, but did not marry until 2005, when Ortega sought another chance at the presidency after previous failed runs. Ortega won that election, and Murillo’s “influence was notable right away,” the Times reports. Murillo removed politicians from office who she disagreed with, but has also been credited with aiding the nation’s poor. Per a new law, Ortega is allowed to run indefinitely.
Some Nicaraguans are worried about the family’s consolidation of power. Sergio González Gutiérrez, a taxi driver, told the Times, “She wants to continue having power — that’s a sickness.” Murillo declined to comment to the Times, although she is also the country’s official media spokeswoman.