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Sandinista consolidation of power advances in Nicaragua with reform of military code

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    Opposition legislator Victor Hugo Tinoco, of the Sandinista Renewal Movement, MRS, gestures before the National Assembly votes to amend the Nicaraguan Constitution to include eliminating presidential term limits, at the National Assembly, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Managua, Nicaragua. Lawmakers have approved constitutional changes that would allow President Daniel Ortega to be re-elected indefinitely, a move that his critics say is designed to keep the Sandinista leader in power for life. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix) (The Associated Press)

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    Legislator Armando Herrera of the Liberal Independent Party, PLI, holds a copy of Nicaragua's Constitution as a way to show his opposition to an amendment that includes eliminating presidential term limits, at the National Assembly, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Managua, Nicaragua. Lawmakers have approved constitutional changes that would allow President Daniel Ortega to be re-elected indefinitely, a move that his critics say is designed to keep the Sandinista leader in power for life. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix) (The Associated Press)

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    Legistlaro Wilber Lopez of the Liberal Independent Party, PLI, holds a copy of Nicaragua's Constitution as a way to show his opposition to an amendment that includes eliminating presidential term limits, at the National Assembly, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Managua, Nicaragua. Lawmakers have approved constitutional changes that would allow President Daniel Ortega to be re-elected indefinitely, a move that his critics say is designed to keep the Sandinista leader in power for life. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix) (The Associated Press)

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    Seats left vacant in the Nicaraguan National Assembly after opposition legislators walked out of the building in protest to an amendment that includes eliminating presidential term limits in Managua, Nicaragua, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Lawmakers have approved constitutional changes that would allow President Daniel Ortega to be re-elected indefinitely, a move that his critics say is designed to keep the Sandinista leader in power for life. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix) (The Associated Press)

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    Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega addresses the CELAC Summit on the second day of its meeting in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. On Tuesday, lawmakers in Nicaragua approved constitutional changes that would allow the indefinite re-election of Ortega who is currently serving his third term under a Supreme Court decision that overrode the constitutional ban. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco, Cubadebate) (The Associated Press)

Nicaragua's congress has approved a military reform that allows President Daniel Ortega's military chief of staff to remain in his post indefinitely and lets the army take a larger role in the economy. It further concentrates power in hands of the longtime president and his allies.

Ortega helped lead the 1970s uprising against dictator Anastasio Somoza, and since returning to the presidency has engineered a series of legal changes allowing him to remain in power indefinitely. His opponents warn of a return to dictatorship.

Wednesday's vote on the military came a day after the congress controlled by Ortega's Sandinista party altered the constitution to erase presidential term limits and eliminate a requirement for a candidate to receive at least 35 percent of the vote in order to win presidential election.

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