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Ortega Bid to Scrap Nicaragua Term Limits Up for Vote

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Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Nicaragua’s Congress will probably approve today a constitutional amendment allowing President Daniel Ortega, who toppled a U.S.-backed dictatorship in 1979, to seek indefinite re-election.

Ortega’s proposal to eliminate a clause prohibiting re-election requires backing from 62 of the 92 lawmakers in Congress, where his Sandinista National Liberation Front has 63 seats. The 68-year-old former Marxist guerrilla ran the country from 1979 to 1990 and has been elected twice since.

“It’s likely to get through,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue research institute in Washington. “His unexpected defeat in 1990 had a very profound effect on him and the result of that is that he’s not willing to give up power now.”

Ortega’s political support for ousted Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden has put him at odds with the U.S., the Central American country’s biggest trading partner. Yet foreign direct investment in the $11 billion economy is forecast to rise 20 percent this year from 2012 to $1.5 billion, according the government’s trade agency, Pro-Nicaragua.

Officials at the government’s Communications and Citizenship Council, run by Ortega’s wife, Rosario Murillo, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment on the constitutional change left by Bloomberg News.

Economic Outlook

The International Monetary Fund praised Nicaragua’s “fiscal discipline” and said the economic outlook in the short and medium term is “favorable” following a September assessment of the country. Gross domestic product will expand about 4 percent per year in the coming years, the IMF said. The country’s leading exports include beef, textile and gold.

Ortega, whose government fought a U.S.-funded insurgency in the 1980s, was able to run for re-election in 2011 after the Supreme Court exempted him from a ban on consecutive terms. He drew protests in the capital, Managua, this year after signing a $40 billion concession to build and operate a inter-oceanic canal to rival Panama’s waterway to a Chinese company with no experience in large infrastructure projects.

To contact the reporter on this story: Isabella Cota in San Jose, Costa Rica at icota@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bill Faries at wfaries@bloomberg.net; Andre Soliani at asoliani@bloomberg.net