Daniel Ortega celebrates this Friday 30 days without appearing in public, this being the second time in the year that he is absent for a similar time. Between March and April was absent for 34 days, which generated considerable expectation about his health, because the country was already being scourged by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although his public absences of more than a month are common, on Wednesday June 24 it was striking that his wife and vice president of the country, Rosario Murillo, tacitly canceled an appearance by Ortega that she had announced the previous day. “He will be with us in the next few days,” said Murillo to hint that Ortega would not speak that day, which may mean that he will speak on any of these days or until next July 19, on the 41st anniversary of the Sandinista revolution, the most important date for the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) party.
This Wednesday July 8, Murillo announced that the commemorative activities of July 19 They will be made with concerts of “Songs to our revolution”, which means that Ortega’s appearance could be virtual too. Yet the commemoration of the tactical withdrawal to Masaya he had set a precedent with a virtual concert and without a call to the traditional replica of the withdrawal.
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For critics, the fact that for the first time Ortega did not attend an event on July 19 –As well as for the first time a replica of the withdrawal was not made–, it is seen as a measure to protect him exclusively, because his followers have not stopped being summoned to recreational and partisan activities, but it would be a double standard to call his supporters to participate in the traditional mass meeting on July 19, while the leader appears through the mega-screens from his home.
Will it exceed its 34-day record?
If Ortega appears until July 19, he would have been absent 39 days, which would exceed his last 34-day absence. His last appearance was on Wednesday June 10, when he took part in the ALBA-TCP High Level Virtual Conference on the Post-Pandemic Economy, where he again complained about the sanctions applied to his family and officials.
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Before that date, he was absent for 22 days, after having appeared on Monday, May 18, to commemorate the birth of General Augusto C. Sandino, a character who gives his name to the ruling Sandinista Front party (FSLN). On that occasion, he spoke of the closure of the Costa Rica border. That same month she had spoken 14 days before, on Monday, May 4, at the Virtual Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, a space she used to insist that the sanctions be suspended.
In the three months and 21 days that Nicaragua has faced the coronavirus pandemic without measures – since March 18 that the first case of Covid-19 in Nicaragua was made official-, Ortega has appeared five times and his speech has been for persuade the international community to withdraw sanctions.
Article 149 of the Political Constitution of Nicaragua
Although Ortega’s absences of more than a month are controversial, it does not imply criminal liability or legal effect, according to the assessment of article 149 of the Political Constitution, made by the constitutional lawyer Gabriel Álvarez.
This article refers to periods of absence of the President of the Republic for leaving the country and temporary absences from the public sphere. The constitutionalist made it clear that the president cannot be removed, punished, or tried for depriving the public of his presence.
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Article 149 does not establish offenses for not appearing in public for more than a month, which is the case of Ortega. What regulates their absences outside the country. For less than 15 days outside the country, you do not need authorization from the National Assembly. The President of the Republic may be absent from the national territory for more than three months with the authorization of the Legislative Branch.