Nicanotes: Rosario Murillo and Empowering Women


This week’s blog is a translation of two pieces written as part of the Spanish-language blog, Informe Pastran, on Dec. 30 entitled respectively, “Women as Protagonists of Change” and “2016: The Year of Rosario Murillo.” To read the originals you can go here and here. In the November election, Murillo, wife of President Daniel Ortega, was elected in her own right as vice-president for the next five years.

Women as Protagonists of Change

“We aspire to the full protagonism of all women in Nicaragua,” Murillo said in August after her candidacy for the vice presidency was announced. “We know, we feel, that we have always worked with and for women. Women are fighters, warriors. As more women are present in the economic, social and political spaces, more women’s leadership is promoted because we have identified our leadership abilities” One of the objectives achieved by Murillo this year has not only been the achievement of 50% of women in elected and appointed positions of relevance in the State, but also that women recognize their role in a time when, on a global level, women are raising their voices, organizing and showing that men and women are complementary, and that gender equality and inclusion, at least in Nicaragua, come from above. Meaning that those who lead the country have integrated this objective into the strategies and plans of the government and are implementing it in operational policies, showing that beyond tokenism, women are prepared to take on their role and assume it fully.


Rosario Murillo has created a new way of campaigning, breaking with all traditional schemes and forms. With her there has been no need to be a leader making speeches, or gathering large groups of people. Her leadership of organized youth to visit house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood, region by region, aligning the whole apparatus of the central and municipal governments to develop public works in time and form, enabling a campaign based on solutions offered to the population and not mere rhetorical promises, has allowed the FSLN to position itself as the national party.


Rosario Murillo has managed to overcome in an elegant and unconventional manner the attacks, caricatures, denigration of her qualifications, and misogyny, knowing that she has been exposed to the attacks because she is a public figure and she has not allowed that to faze her, or diminish her enthusiasm and ability to work. She has been consistent between what she says and what she does, being a true leader, working long days without rest driving this government. Her close collaborators say that she is addicted to work in the good sense of the word, and that has produced remarkable results for the government, results admired by Nicaraguans and foreigners.

016: The Year of Rosario Murillo

“La Compañera” Rosario Murillo, as she is recognized and called in the Government and the Sandinista Front, has had a rebound of popularity and acceptance of her impressive governmental management this year, when she was elected Vice President for the five-year period 2017-2021.  2016 was an exceptional year for the government presided over by President Daniel Ortega. Against all odds, Ortega contradicted what many analysts believed  was a natural law: that every government and its top leaders begin their periods with high approval ratings, but tend to lose popularity as time goes by and they do not deliver on what they promised or do so half-way, and end their terms with high disapproval rates.

Raul Obregon, general manager of the polling firm M & R Consultants told Informe Pastran, “Contradicting this quasi-law, the government of President Ortega ends the period 2012-2016 with approval rates higher than those it started with: 63.3% in 2012 and 67.2% in 2016.” He emphasized that “In line with the approval of the government, Rosario Murillo achieved the highest ratings of the period: 67.2% approved of the work she did in 2016. Comparing this to her 28.0% approval rating obtained at the beginning of the 2007-2011 government period, the result clearly demonstrates that when a government and its main officials focus their efforts on responding to the most felt needs and demands of the population in general, and mainly of the segments of greatest social and economic vulnerability, it is possible to increase the approval of the population during the term of office.”

In 2007, only 28% approved of Murillo; in 2008 it was 14.4%; it rose to 29.6% in 2009; but dropped to 29.1% in 2010. Her approval rebounded to 63.3% in 2011, followed by 62.7% in 2012; 63% in 2013; 63.1% in 2014; 61.8% in 2015 and 67.2% in 2016. Obregon continued, “With these results we see it confirmed that the approval rates by the population are determined by the work done by the government and /or government officials, and that when the product of such work is pro-population, the population without doubt recognizes it. When governments and officials do not respond to their needs, the population disapproves and punishes the government and its officials.” As for the political opposition, it ended 2016 with no notable leader and with the majority of the population holding a negative opinion of it.


“For some, Rosario Murillo is, along with her husband the Commander and President of Nicaragua Daniel Ortega, one of the most representative figures of the Sandinista revolution, while for others, she is only “la compañera” who has taken charge of bringing all kinds of cultural activities to the most remote villages in her country,” said the prestigious Forbes magazine, which placed her among the most powerful and influential women in Central America this year.

The reelection of President Daniel Ortega last November and Murillo as Vice President of the country has its explanation in numbers that dispel the opposition’s challenges. According to The Wire, a web portal of The Atlantic, “Ortega won 72% of the votes and enjoys a 70% approval rate; his socialist policies are also well accepted. The economy has grown steadily by an average of 5.16% in the last five years (2011-2015), more than double the region’s average of 2.08%.”  In a pre-election report, the BBC acknowledged that Murillo “is very dear to poor Nicaraguans and Sandinistas, so she consistently has 70% approval levels.” Nevertheless, her critics and detractors attack her daily in editorials, reviews, comments and cartoons, focusing on banalities rather than measuring her results in government.


“She has already been involved in the key decisions that affect the country and has advised the president, so now she is just trying to get an appropriate title for that role [as Vice President of the country],” said Michael Allison, political science professor at the University of Scranton.  Her critics write about her with great imagination but do not dare to deny that Murillo is a hard-working and tireless leader. Christine Wade, a political science scholar at Washington College of Maryland, adds, “She is in people’s homes all the time. She has become the public face of the administration and I think it has helped immensely to increase its popularity.”


Rosario Murillo is seen as a person who commands, who has decision power, who listens, resolves, who is very sensitive to the needy, who is informed about everything, down to the smallest details, but at the same time is the main critic of the government, who calls public officials onto the carpet, and is the most demanding about fulfilling the plans and tasks that the Executive has proposed … Every time that floods occur, landslides, misfortunes, many of the affected appeal to her, trusting that they will receive a response.  A peasant womanwho lost her house during the flood of the Ochomogo River in Nandaime asked Murillo through Channel 10 to help her. “I know she will listen to me, that she will attend to me. I know that she is going to help me; she supports the poor,” said the affected woman. Among poor women she is admired. Opposition politicians and businessmen respect her. Only old comrades from the FSLN and the government of the eighties are detractors, plus some Catholic clerics. Meanwhile she appears on Channel 4 to give her daily information briefing by telephone, serene and unperturbed.


As Coordinator of the Communication and Citizenship Council and now as the elected Vice-President of the country, Rosario Murillo has managed to maintain the cohesion of the state apparatus around the government’s program without diminishing even a bit the priority given to the social impact projects that the executive branch calls Restitution of Rights. This social component was not only decisive in moving thousands of Nicaraguans out of extreme poverty, boosting micro-enterprise, and empowering women through microcredit, but it also enabled them to win a great deal of support for the Sandinista leadership.  At the same time, Murillo stood as the embodiment of gender protagonism in Nicaragua, empowering thousands upon thousands of women with her actions making gender equality an accent of this government … The World Economic Forum said that Nicaragua is the most gender equal country of the region, as it ranks 12 among 145 countries measured worldwide, but we are number one in Latin America.


  • Despite the volatility of the global economy, the slowdown in Europe, the weak growth of the United States and the decelerating growth in China, Nicaragua was praised in 2016 by multilateral financial organizations, risk rating agencies and entrepreneurs in the region, for achieving sustained growth of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) an average of close to 5%, coupled with the continued reduction of extreme poverty, rising foreign direct investment, a construction boom, citizen security and social peace. (Informe Pastran, Dec. 29)
  • One hundred thousand new vehicles were registered in Nicaragua this year raising to 800,000 the number of vehicles on the road. National Transit Commissioner General Roberto Gonzalez commented, “It is positive because it demonstrates the economic development of the nation.” But he also pointed out that, with more drivers, the risk of accidents also has increased. Traffic fatalities increased by 100 to 780 in 2015. (El Nuevo Diario, Dec. 29)