The election of a replacement vice-mayor for Managua has turned into an all-out power struggle between Managua’s Sandinista Mayor, Nicho Marenco, and First Lady Rosario Murillo.
Marenco and Murillo, who allegedly have been at odds privately for months, have now made public their dislike for one another in what has become the first frontal challenge to Murillo’s growing power within the Sandinista Front.
The battle started shortly after Managua’s Vice-Mayor Alexis Arguello resigned from office Nov. 2 to start his own pre-candidacy for next year’s mayoral elections.
Before the City Council had a chance to elect a new vice-mayor, Murillo convened a secrete meeting with all the council members except Marenco to pressure them to elect her candidate, Edgardo Cuarezma. At the meeting, Murillo allegedly called Marenco a “traitor” – a loaded term in a former revolutionary movement – according to the testimony of several of the councilmen who were at the meeting.
Marenco, however, promoted his own candidate, Sandinista councilman Neri Leiva Orochena, who ended up winning the Nov. 8 vote for vice-mayor.
Marenco then responded fiercely to Murillo’s tactics, which allegedly included threats to Orochena’s family. Marenco blasted the First Lady as a conspirator who has done “great damage to the Sandinista Front.”
Marenco insisted that Murillo will not be able to throw him out of the Sandinista Front or remove him from office. So far this year, Murillo, who heads all government communication, has removed more than a half-dozen ministers and government authorities that she has perceived as a threat, most recently former Minister of Health Maritza Cuan, who was pushed out of office last week allegedly for giving a press conference without Murillo’s permission.
Despite problems with Ortega earlier this year, Marenco insists the two remain close friends and confidants.When Marenco criticized Ortega earlier this year for governing from party headquarters rather than the official presidential offices, Ortega told him to mind his own business with the now-famous line: “shoemaker, tend to your shoes.”
Marenco this week said that he has since stayed in his “shoe shop” and not had any further problems with the President, for whom he says he has total respect.
“I am in communication with Daniel, but not with his woman, because she is not an authority within the party,”Marenco said.
Murillo, however, has shown in recent years that she is a leading authority within the party – one, perhaps, who is feared more than loved.
She has also shown that she is prepared to defend that authority when she feels threatened, and some are speculating that the reason Ortega’s scheduled visit to Peru was canceled this week was so that she and the President could return early to Nicaragua to deal with the Marenco situation.