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Ortega starts new term in Nicaragua with wife as VP

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (L) and his wife Rosario Murillo, who was elevated to vice president, give their thumbs up after voting in Managua during the presidential election on November 6, 2016 © AFP/File / RODRIGO ARANGUA

Managua, Nicaragua, Jan 10 – Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega officially takes up his third successive term on Tuesday, this time with his wife as vice president as he tightens his decade-long grip over one of Latin America’s poorest countries.

The ex-rebel leader has ruled Nicaragua for 20 of the past 37 years. His new mandate, delivered in a landslide November election victory, will see him in office until 2022.

His wife Rosario Murillo’s elevation to vice president — she was already his official spokesperson and the public face of his government — positions her to become president if Ortega, 71, leaves office before his term is out.

Heavy security was evident ahead of the inauguration ceremony in the capital Managua, with the deployment of elite police units backed by dog handlers and the closure of surrounding roads.

VIPs attending included Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, Bolivian President Evo Morales and El Salvador’s leader, Salvador Sanchez Ceren.

The absence of other Central American heads of state underlined the rocky state of Ortega’s relations with his neighbors.

The Nicaraguan leader has instead courted nations with an anti-US bent, including Russia and Venezuela.

A North Korean delegation headed by a senior political and military official, Choe Ryong Hae, also was attending Ortega’s swearing-in ceremony.

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