Who’s Who in the New Cabinet
The new government’s mixed Cabinet includes both little-known and well-known professionals, activists, former army members, Sandinista militants, businesspeople, intellectuals
and people with no defined political career. Will they all remain in their posts for the next five years?
Francisco A. Guevara Jerez
Following the FSLN’s electoral victory, the greatest speculation revolved around the makeup of the new government Cabinet. Despite the best efforts of President-elect Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo to keep a tight lid on everything, the media anticipated almost all of the ministers and presidents of autonomous entities a month before the new government came to power.
Sworn in on January 10 in a chaotic ceremony lacking any public or state-related sense, the ministers spent their first few weeks trying to piece together all the bits of puzzle most of their predecessors left behind, besmirched by scandalous, corrupt transactions, million-dollar debts and dozens of phantom employees.
A cake more or less shared outThe Cabinet makeup was firmly in the hands of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. In addition to people directly designated by the presidential duo, the main method was to ask the most prominent representatives of all the FSLN’s power groups—“sensitivities” as they’re known in the presidential circle—to propose politically trustworthy and socially representative candidates academically prepared for the post.
The cake has been more or less shared out. The unions and professional associations responding to a more leftwing logic—represented by parliamentarian and unionist Gustavo Porras and sociologist Orlando Núñez—proposed the portfolios corresponding to the social sector as well as a few others. Another part of the Cabinet was chosen to satisfy two influential party sectors: the businesspeople and professionals led by the controversial Francisco López and the brothers Manuel and Ricardo Coronel Kautz, and those close to the once powerful revolutionary commander cum businessman Bayardo Arce Castaño.
Another two groups were also taken into account, although surprisingly they had significantly less weight than expected: the FSLN party apparatus, with its still powerful departmental political secretaries; and former members of the army and Interior Ministry united around the figure of retired Colonel Lenín Cerna Juárez. Managua Mayor Dionisio Marenco also gave Ortega some of his most trustworthy cadres, who were placed in state companies, autonomous bodies or key departments in certain ministries.
Only in the recently-created Sports Institute, formerly under the Ministry of Education, did the presidential couple employ different criteria. Based on a commitment acquired during the election campaign, the director was designated by the presidents of the country’s 16 sports federations from a shortlist presented by Ortega and Murillo. They chose Marlon Torres, a sports activist formed during the revolution who graduated in Cuba.
Tension in the defense portfolioThe main problems surrounded the defense portfolio. Ortega initially decided to name retired Colonel Marisol Castillo as defense minister, which was a highly significant designation considering that Castillo, who is currently an alternate magistrate on the Supreme Electoral Council, is Lenín Cerna’s wife. She is also the niece of current Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) president Jorge Castillo Quant. She joined the FSLN despite the fact that her father, José María “Chema” Castillo, was killed by a Sandinista commando unit during a hostage siege at his house in 1974, a successful operation that catapulted the FSLN into national and international headlines.
The planned naming of Castillo irritated the army high command, including its current chief, General Omar Halleslevens. Although Castillo has a masters degree in sociology and a diploma in business administration and economics in addition to her army career, they felt that her professional qualities—read military rank—were not up to scratch. The army top brass also still has bitter memories of Lenín Cerna, not just because of his authoritarian style but also because he continued to exert influence within the institution, particularly the intelligence unit known as the Defense Information Department (DID), for years after being retired from the army in February 2000.
The army’s virtual veto of Castillo was not at all to the liking of Ortega and Murillo, who felt that it was questioning their incipient national authority. For weeks Ortega distanced himself from the army’s upper echelons and even made two or three public declarations that reflected his annoyance.
The one that seemingly touched the most sensitive nerve was made in Tegucigalpa on November 29, when he stated in front of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya that “there has to be a reasonable balance of armed forces in the region, which need to be reduced in order to jointly confront the situations threatening Central Americans.” That same day, while declaring his “respect for the President-elect’s declarations,” an army spokesperson emphasized that “Nicaragua has the smallest army in Central America with the smallest budget and carries out tasks in support of the country’s development.” Soon afterward General Halleslevens himself reminded people that “Nicaragua has been committed to fostering peace in Central America for a long time and it was along those lines that President Bolaños took unilateral measures to reduce the army.” He also confirmed that he had not talked to Ortega about this issue.
The Copalar mega-dam Another of President-elect Ortega’s declarations aimed directly at the army’s surprising business interests. One of its generals, Adolfo Chamorro, is part of a group contracted by powerful Mexican companies to lobby the National Assembly for a law allowing the state to grant a concession and offer juicy benefits to people who are considering investing billions of dollars to build the pharaonic Copalar dam. Located on the Tuma River in the department of Matagalpa, this dam would produce up to 700 megawatts of hydroelectricity. As the issue had just been introduced into the National Assembly plenary for debate by then-legislator Bayardo Arce, Ortega ordered members of the FSLN bench to withdraw the project from the parliamentary agenda, publicly declaring his opposition, among other reasons because he had promised as much during the election campaign to thousands of inhabitants of Bocana de Paiwas, whose land would be flooded if the dam were built.
is at the crux of the crisis
Throughout December relations between Ortega and the army were chilly, but never became really tense—Ortega simply ignored the army commanders for as long as he could. He finally opted to leave the Defense Ministry without a minister and following “extremely frank” talks with Halleslevens—who like Ortega comes from the town of La Libertad in the department of Chontales—made a number of important institutional concessions. These included using the Law 290 reforms on the organization of the executive branch to transfer responsibility for Civil Defense and the DID to the army. It was assigned previously to the Ministry of Defense, at least theoretically. In exchange, he received an explicit promise that the army would remain strictly subordinated to the President, including a “timely and exhaustive” supply of information processed by the DID.
Incidentally, Ortega also made a personal gesture to the army chief by appointing his brother, Eduardo Halleslevens, executive president of INISER. The ample profits of this state social security institute have been a fundamental source for the unreported spending of previous governments.
In the Government MinistryExcept for the tensions in the Defense Ministry, there were no appreciable problems in putting the Cabinet together. The main inconvenience was the lack of qualified cadres for the most important technical tasks. In such cases, Ortega and Murillo opted for people they saw as most politically trustworthy. Let’s take a look at who’s who in the most important posts.
Government Minister Ana Isabel Morales was a hero of the guerrilla struggle against the Somoza dynasty. She was director of Immigration until President Arnoldo Alemán fired her in 1999 after she ejected from her office an insolent US Embassy official who was trying to give her orders. She has since dedicated herself to her studies, while maintaining a close friendship with Rosario Murillo. Carlos José Nájar Centeno, son of a martyr of the anti-Somoza struggle is her deputy minister. He is a former state security officer who has Colonel Cerna’s absolute confidence.
In the Foreign Affairs MinistryIn the 1970s, Samuel Santos López, the newly appointed foreign minister, was a militant of the Nicaraguan Democratic Movement (MDN), founded by young business-people such as its head, Alfonso Robelo, who was on the first Government Junta after the 1979 revolutionary triumph. During the eighties, Santos occupied a number of different posts, including mayor of Managua. In the nineties, he first ran the FSLN’s finances and then iys international relations, posts that allowed him to cultivate friendships among international social democrats and diplomats accredited in Nicaragua.
While his rise within the party has been backed by Bayardo Arce—he is a partner in Arce’s hotel and real estate businesses—he has also won Ortega’s personal trust by the way he has exercised his different responsibilities. His critics, however, point to his limited preparation for the post—he knows nothing about international law, for example. His most important personal and political achievement has been opening up the possibility of China financing a mega-project to finally construct an inter-oceanic canal through Nicaragua.
His deputy minister is Manuel Coronel Kautz, a former FSLN treasurer who has agricultural property in the department of Río San Juan. He and his brother Ricardo, together with the late Herty Lewites, founded the FSLN Businesspeople’s Bloc at the end of the nineties and managed to position it at the top of the party structure. The Coronel Kautz brothers played a leading role during the FSLN negotiations with the PLC that led to the terrible pact between Alemán and Ortega.
In Transport and Infrastructure Civil engineer Fernando Martínez Espinoza was named minister of transport and infrastructure. He was deputy minister of the same ministry during the eighties and currently owns a prosperous construction company. He has a solid reputation among both businesspeople and construction professionals. In fact the Nicaraguan Chamber of Construction (CNC) and the Nicaraguan Association of Engineers and Architects—both dominated by the political Right—not only backed his designation but were his main promoters. His colleagues recognize not only his quality as a capable engineer, but also that he has never concealed his Sandinista militancy and started his business from scratch. CNC manager Fernando Valle Dávila was named deputy minister.
In Environment and Natural ResourcesThe new head of the environment and natural resources ministry (MARENA) is Amanda Lorío Arana. A sociologist by profession, she worked during the eighties in the specialized agrarian reform research team led by Orlando Núñez. In the 1990s, her life took a complete turn and she traveled to Europe to learn reflexology, “a millenarian oriental technical that helps balance the body’s energy, stimulating the body’s own curing mechanism.” Upon her return, she set up a clinic and her positive results quickly established Larío’s reputation. Her clients include Rosario Murillo and Daniel Ortega. Her deputy minister is Jacobo Charles Simeón, a professional from the Caribbean side of the country who is also a Mayangna indigenous youth leader.
In the Public Prosecutor’s OfficeThe man named as Public Prosecutor General is Hernán Estrada Santamaría, a lawyer from the department of Chinandega who is very closely linked to José Pasos Marciaq—the Sandinsta member in the collegiate Comptroller General’s Office. Estrada has almost no previous political career, save the fact that he was an FSLN international relations official in the eighties and nineties. He gained the trust of Nicaragua’s new first couple working as a commissioner to legalize the purchase and sale of various agricultural and urban properties. Although he set up his own legal practice, he never litigated and has no known legal specialty.
In FISE and INETERThe naming of Nelson Artola as president of the Emergency Social Investment Fund (FISE) is disconcerting. Daniel Ortega expressly announced before the general elections that nobody currently elected to parliament would be named to the Cabinet and that the same went for elected mayors and municipal councilors. Yet Artola, who was mayor of San Ramón between 1990 and 1996 and a National Assembly representative for two terms (1997-2004), resigned his legislative seat two years early to run for and win the post of mayor of Matagalpa in 2004, defeating Horacio Brenes, today his fellow Cabinet member. He is now abandoning that post with the next municipal elections nearly two years away. Although Ortega and Murillo had many alternatives, including former mayors whose administrations were held in a very positive light, they still opted for Artola, not for his professional wisdom, but rather for his political militancy and negotiating skills.
Alejandro Rodríguez Alvarado, on the other hand, is a civil engineer with a doctorate in geophysics—a true scientist whose knowledge is internationally recognized. He has now returned as director general of the Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies (INETER), which he helped found in 1981. After he left that post in 1990, Rodríguez was the first executive secretary of the Coordination Center for the Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America and has since worked for different international organizations, including the World Bank.
He has been a tenacious preacher of prevention as a way of reducing disasters, believing that there are no “natural, just “human” disasters, provoked for example by bad environmental management. His colleagues particularly recognize “his vision to urge reconciliation between the approaches of the physical sciences and those of the social sciences in disaster prevention and mitigation.” Rodríguez also supports building an inter-oceanic canal through Nicaragua and has spent many years studying for the execution of such a project, which has been a dream and nightmare for our country for centuries.
In the Economic CabinetWhat is known as the “Economic Cabinet,” made up of the Central Bank, the Treasury and the Ministry of Development, Industry and Commerce (MIFIC), has been labeled as “very low profile” by different analysts.
Retired Colonel Antenor Rosales, a lawyer with a masters degree in banking law who was a professor at the Central American University in Managua, is now also the president of the Central Bank with ministerial ranking. Rosales replaced René Vivas Lugo as FSLN representative on the Bank Superintendence board when the latter resigned in protest at the Alemán-Ortega pact. He was also in the Copalar dam lobbying group and represented the Arce group’s interests—and its 98,313 shares—in Interbank, one of several banks that went under due to dodgy financial practices between 1999 and 2001. He was also an Interbank director at the time. He has cultivated relations with the Socialist International, acting as the FSLN representative at a number of its events.
Rosales has had a long political career, starting as a student leader. He led the Revolutionary Student Front in the second half of the seventies and was one of its most brilliant orators, with a notable capacity to attract the youth of that era. After being released from jail in 1977, where he was held for leading a student march calling for the release of political prisoners, he went underground with the FSLN’s Prolonged Popular War tendency, headed by Henry Ruiz, Tomás Borge and Bayardo Arce. After the FSLN took the city of Estelí in early 1979, he deserted that faction and took his whole column of guerrilla fighters over to the tercerista tendency headed Daniel Ortega, Humberto Ortega and Víctor Tirado. As soon as he left the army in the late nineties, he hooked back up with the FSLN, finished his university studies, founded the Nicaraguan Law Studies Center, became a radio commentator and even managed to write a book on the struggle of the Palestinian people.
Alberto Guevara Obregón was named treasury minister and will therefore be responsible for the national budget. From a humble background, he was able to complete his studies thanks to scholarships awarded for his academic performance. An economics graduate from Nicaragua’s National Autonomous University (UNAN) in Managua in 1992, Guevara then received an Inter-American Development Bank scholarship to study applied macroeconomics at Chile’s Catholic University. Up to February 2006 he worked at the Nicaraguan Central Bank’s Economic Studies Management and from March to December as financial manager of the Center for Rural and Social Promotion, Research and Development (CIPRES), run by Orlando Núñez.
Ortega rewarded businessman Horacio Brenes Icabalceta with the post of minister of MIFIC for his decision to leave the PLC and join the FSLN alliance just two months before the elections. Brenes twice lost the race for mayor of Matagalpa to FSLN candidates Zadrach Zeledón (2000) and Nelson Artola (2004). Liana del Socorro Lacayo was named as his deputy minister. The wife of Ajax Delgado, she is one of Bayardo Arce’s protégés.
Arce himself was after one of three posts—foreign affairs minister, treasury minister or president of the Central Bank—but missed out on them all. Instead he was named presidential adviser for economic and financial affairs. An astute politician and negotiator with few scruples, Arce will have a voice in Cabinet sessions, where he usually pushes the interests of his banking or import partners. He has been delegated by Ortega to attend to political and personal relations with representatives from the international finance organizations and, above all, to maintain contacts with the powerful national business elite.
In the strategic energy sectorThe plum jobs in the energy sector have been taken by members of the FSLN’s Businesspeople’s Bloc. Emilio Rappaccioli Baltodano, who was Nicaragua’s Energy Institute minister from 1979 to 1997, covering both the Sandinista and Chamorro administrations, now leads the sector as head of the recently created Ministry of Energy. The rest of the team includes engineer and geothermal expert Ernesto Martínez Tíffer as president of the state electrical generators company ENEL, Liberal politician Salvador Mansell Castrillo as president of the National Electricity Transmission Company (ENTRESA) and FSLN treasurer Francisco López Centeno as director of the state-owned oil company PETRONIC—which will act as Nicaragua’s counterpart in the Venezuelan petroleum deals.
López Centeno is an electrical engineer who has also been actively involved in a religious group for years now. He owns a medium-sized company called Electromechanical Technology and in addition to his institutional post in the FSLN is also president of the Sandinista Businesspeople and Professionals Bloc and runs the mysterious China, Venezuela, Russia, Vietnam and Cuba Chamber of Commerce. In addition, he presides over the Addicts Rehabilitation Home, from where he recruits religious and political followers, such as boxing tri-champion Alexis Argüello, who is currently deputy mayor of Managua. His loyalty to Ortega–Murillo is unflinching. It was he who showed his face in the aftermath of an accident rumored to have involved a member of that family that caused the death of two young professionals in December 2005.
Mansell Castrillo also has a murky past. He was one of those accused of massive corruption in ENTRESA when he was vice president there during Arnoldo Alemán’s government. And now he’s back as its president...
Martínez Tiffer couldn’t be more different. Considered a regional authority in geothermics, he gained most of his experience during the Sandinista government in the eighties, when he headed up the San Jacinto Tizate geothermal project. Until recently he was general secretary of the Managua municipal government.
In ports, tourism and the free trade zonesThe president of the National Ports Facility (ENAP) is Virgilio Romel Silva Munguía, head of the FSLN Business-people’s Bloc in Masaya and 14th on the party’s national parliamentary representative slate, which was too far down to earn him a seat.
Architect Mario Salinas Pasos was named director of the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute (INTUR). He was director of the National Tourism Cooperation until August 1990, having been appointed during the eighties by then-Minister of Tourism Herty Lewites. In that post, Salinas was responsible for running businesses such as the Montelimar Hotel and the Diplotienda, a state-run dollar store that sold imported luxury goods to diplomats, other foreigners and top government officials to generate hard currency. He is now president of Desarrollos Sooner, a prosperous construction company that owns several of the biggest housing developments built in the last ten years. He is also a director of the Inter-American Housing Union, headquartered in Peru. Salinas was sued in June 2002 as part of the accusations against Martín Aguado, president of the Social Security Institute during the Alemán government. He was accused of a real estate swindle for selling land in Nindirí that did not belong to him to a corporation Aguado headed for the construction of the San Juan de Capistrano urban complex.
The vice president of the Tourism Institute will be Nubia Arcia Mayorga, who has been involved in a long-running dispute with the poet and priest Ernesto Cardenal, who accused her of appropriating the Mancarrón Hotel on the Solentiname archipelago, under Cardenal’s tutelage until 1999.
Ortega put retired general and former guerrilla commander Álvaro Baltodano Cantarero as president of the National Free Trade Zone Commission and executive secretary of the Free Trade Zone Corporation. Baltodano is one of Ortega’s most trusted men and was his national campaign chief during the 2001 election campaign. After retiring from the army in April 2000, Baltodano rejoined the FSLN as part of Cerna’s group. Soon after his third election defeat, Ortega commissioned Baltodano to attend to the groups, personalities and political allies in the FSLN’s Convergence alliance.
Over the years, Baltodano has acquired his own profile, removed from the habitual conspiracies of his friend Cerna, and earned prestige as a man who knows how to build consensus, according to several of his subordinates. The “success” of incorporating the remains of the Somocista PLN into the FSLN electoral alliance has been attributed to him, although he tends to minimize the ideological factor behind this decision by claiming that “there are Somocistas in all the parties.”
Defending water and workersThe biggest surprises came in the entities making up the Social Cabinet. One particularly surprising appointment was that of Ruth Selma Herrera as president of the National Water and Sewage Company (ENACAL). Herrera, who is physically slight, hyperactive and bestowed with an extraordinary frankness, has until now headed up the National Consumer Defense Network, the most belligerent civil organization in the country and one that has taken on the fight against the privatization of water as its flagship struggle. But her CV is much longer than that, both academically—economist and MBA—and politically—guerrilla fighter, Government Ministry official, general secretary of the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Agrarian Reform (MIDINRA), former Sandinista Assembly member. While a particularly fierce defender of water as an inalienable human right, she has also promoted the re-nationalizing of all public service companies—energy and telecommunications—which has earned her many enemies, including Bayardo Arce.
Her partner and friend of many years, the lawyer and former Government Ministry Captain Jeannette Chávez, is the new labor minister. She and Herrera founded a consultancy group they called Ideas, which specialized in defending workers’ companies won in the early nineties in the negotiations over the privatization of state-run companies, almost always charging symbolic fees for their work. Later they founded the Consumer Defense Network, turning them into a thorn in the side of government and private company representatives linked to electricity, cable television, cellular phones and conventional phones. A law professor born in the department of Chinandega, Chávez is particularly appreciated in the National Workers Front for successfully defending hundreds of cases in which workers were sacked by their bosses.
The president of the regulatory Nicaraguan Water and Sewage Institute (INAA) will be retired Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Shutze.
In the crucial education and health ministriesEducator Miguel De Castilla Urbina was the only minister Daniel Ortega named before he won the elections. Respected for his knowledge of education sciences and his strong defense of the public and free nature of state schooling and the dignity of teachers, De Castilla turned the Initiative for Nicaragua’s Education and Human Development Forum into a compact bloc in defense of these positions. He was one of the authors of the General Teaching Career Law and preached fruitlessly for years about the need to abolish the kind of school autonomy the World Bank invented because it has perverted public education, turning it into a marketplace.
De Castilla is qualified in pedagogy, sociology and educational planning and administration, having studied in Nicaragua, Chile, Panama, Costa Rica, Cuba and Spain. He was a primary teacher in the school for Highway Department workers, now the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure; a secondary teacher at the Miguel de Cervantes Institute; and a university professor in Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica. During the revolution he directed the Nicaraguan Public Administration Institute (INAP) and has since held a number of posts in national and foreign institutions.
His vice minister is teacher Milena Núñez Téllez, sister of Carlos, the Sandinista hero who died in 1990, and René, current National Assembly president. Milena was involved in founding the Association of Nicaraguan Educators (ANDEN) before 1979 and was one of its main leaders throughout the eighties.
The new health minister is Maritza Cuan Machado. She wrote her graduation thesis on the “Evolution and analysis of hospital services in Nicaragua” and after finishing her gynecology studies spent the last few years of the revolution running the Bertha Calderón Women’s Hospital. After 1990 she worked as a private doctor and since the end of that decade has been a consultant for German Technical Cooperation, where she directed the Women’s Comprehensive Health Project. Since finishing university, Cuan has belonged to different health sector unions and has been closely linked to the national leadership of the Health Workers Federation (FETSALUD), headed by current National Assembly representative Gustavo Porras. The new deputy minister for health is Guillermo González, who until January 10 was president of the Association of Public Health Workers and a teacher at the UNAN’s Center for Health Research and Studies.
In the agricultural sector and the rural worldThe farmers’ and ranchers’ associations are very well positioned, as sociologist Orlando Núñez Soto, author of a number of essays and books and until recently a convinced anarchist, will be directing the Zero Hunger initiative. Núñez has always been able to accommodate the oscillating circumstances of the Sandinista Front in his thinking, according to his assessment of the political correlations at any given time. He has tenaciously promoted associative enterprises and the cooperative movement and was the brains behind the promise made to poor peasant families during Daniel Ortega’s 2001 election campaign to provide them cows, pigs, poultry, seeds, financing and technical assistance to guarantee their survival and hopefully capitalization. This idea has been improved and expanded and, after being applied in CIPRES, Núñez’s own NGO, now forms the cornerstone of his national anti-hunger plan, which he will direct from his post as coordinator of the new Food Security and Sovereignty Council.
The new agriculture and forestry minister is Ariel Bucardo Rocha. He comes from a peasant background and was one of the founders of the National Farmers and Ranchers Union (UNAG), the Rural Workers Association (ATC) and the National Cooperatives Federation (FENACOOP). His deputy minister is Benjamín Dixon Cunningham, who was the ministry’s delegate in the department of Masaya during the Bolaños administration. UNAG’s main leader, engineer Alvaro Fiallos Oyanguren, was named president of the Rural Development Institute (IDR), while another of its directors, Roger Alí Romero, was made director of the Nicaraguan Basic Foods Company (ENABAS). A veteran of the now defunct MIDINRA, agricultural engineer Bayardo Serrano is to be the new director of the Nicaraguan Agricultural Technology Institute (INTA).
The cadre with greatest international weightPaul Oquist, who was named coordinator of the National Policy Council, is probably the government cadre with the most international recognition. A US-born nationalized Nicaraguan, Oquist has lived off and on in Nicaragua for almost 30 years and during the eighties was the Sandinista government’s main public administration official. He played an important role in the negotiations that culminated in the end of the counterrevolutionary war.
He is a doctor of political sciences who has completed many graduate studies. During the nineties and up to the present day he has been one of the experts most used by the United Nations Development Program for its work in Asia, particularly in Pakistan, Mongolia and Vietnam. He has also been in Chile and Ecuador. Within the UN, Oquist is considered a world authority on governance, peace processes, transparency and public responsibility policies, information and communication technologies. He is one of the two directors of the Nicaraguan Studies Institute (IEN), “dedicated to academic research and committed to governance.”
The other IEN director is Rodolfo Delgado Romero, who will now head the presidency’s technical secretariat. Delgado has a masters degree in business administration and did a postgraduate course in public administration in Spain. He was president of the Interbank Liquidation Board, directed the European Union’s Democracy and Human Rights Program for Nicaragua and was at one point linked to the Civil Coordinator umbrella group. Both Delgado and Oquist enjoy Ortega’s absolute confidence.
Posts on women’s issuesMurillo and Ortega also placed two former parliamentary representatives in the Nicaraguan Women’s Institute: Emilia Torres and Rita Fletes. Both voted to criminalize therapeutic abortion in October 2006 and neither considers herself a feminist. They will have a rough row to hoe.
Glenda Ramírez Noguera, a business administrator who worked in the National Assembly, was proposed by Bayardo Arce for minister of the family. She has not had a prominent political career, although she has always been active in the party structures.
Other postsAt least two people from Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast hold important posts: former National Assembly representative Ana Lazo from the mining triangle—the municipalities of Siuna, Rosita and Bonanza—will be President of the National Postal Company, while another former parliamentarian and educator, William Schwartz Cunningham, will direct the Nicaraguan Forestry Resources Institute (INAFOR). Lazo is the main FSLN leader in the Mines area and Schwartz is the same in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region. Cadres placed by FETSALUD are Dr. Roberto López Gómez as director of the Social Security Institute (INSS) and former parliamentarian and union leader Dámaso Vargas as director of the National Technological Institute (INATEC).
People close to Managua Mayor Dionisio Marenco who have been awarded posts include Orlando José Castillo to head TELCOR, the regulatory telephone and mail entity, with Marvin Collado Ibarra as his deputy, and economist Hedí Medrano Soto, who is now director general of customs.
The following aspects of the new Cabinet are particularly important:
* Rosario Murillo is much more than just First Lady. She exercises real decision-making, execution and veto power. In practice, she’s functioning more like the head of government, with her husband acting like a head of state.
* The criteria of active grassroots militancy in the party structures has not been determinant. On the contrary, the Cabinet includes ministers who have not participated in party activities for years, although they always maintained their Sandinista identity in their professional environment.
* The most ideologically leftist sectors of the FSLN dominate the Social Cabinet and the agricultural sector. Businesspeople took almost all of the posts linked with any kind of business.
* Some representatives of the indigenous and Caribbean peoples have been included.
* The miniscule parties and groups allied to the FSLN—from the Somocista Right to Social Christians—did not get any Cabinet placements.
The final result is a Cabinet of many stripes. The mixture of businesspeople, unionists, intellectuals, social activists, political climbers and former army brass does not offer any ideological consistency. Qualified spokespeople who believe in free market prosperity coexist alongside those postulating a socialist system. In this universe of contradictions, Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo are in command, at the helm. They will be the great arbiters of the conflicts that will inevitably arise in the future.
Francisco A. Guevara Jerez is a Nicaraguan journalist.