The Daniel Ortega-Rosario Murillo regime of Nicaragua is waging a war against religious freedom, targeting the Catholic Church as the most important independent institution left in Nicaragua, human rights activists warned.
“Sandinismo has never agreed with the principles of the Catholic Church because the priests and bishops have always told the truth in public, denouncing the corruptions and crimes committed,” Martha Molina, a Nicaraguan lawyer and author of the report Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church?, which records the attacks on the Catholic Church since the socio-political crisis of April 2018, told Diálogo on April 26. “The dictatorship longs for the clergy to be servile […]. They want a Church that is an ally, a crony, a partner, and that turns a blind eye to injustice.”
The confiscation of property, which Article 64 of the Nicaraguan Constitution prohibits, has been among the forms of oppression. The regime confiscated the monastery of the Trappist sisters, in Chontales department, to hand it over to the Nicaraguan Institute of Agricultural Technology, the nuns said via Facebook.
The nuns left the country on February 27, 2023 to settle in Panama. They are the second religious group to leave the country after 18 nuns of the Missionaries of Charity order left on July 6, 2022.
The regime suspended diplomatic relations with the Vatican on March 12, 2023, as yet another attack against the Catholic Church. The decision came after Pope Francis told Infobae that, “I have no choice but to think that the person who leads [Daniel Ortega] is imbalanced. Here we have a bishop in prison, a very serious man, very capable. He wanted to give his testimony and did not accept exile. It’s something that is so foreign from what we live; it’s as if we were bringing in the communist dictatorship of 1917 or the Hitlerian dictatorship of 1935… they are a kind of grotesque dictatorship.”
The Ortega-Murillo regime, which has been clinging to power for the last 14 years, lashed out at the Catholic Church, accusing it of being a mafia and an anti-democratic organization, BBC Mundo reported.
The repression strategy used in Nicaragua is well known, and some consider that it could even have been be inspired or influenced by its closest allies: Cuba, Venezuela, China, and Iran.
“Ortega wants a sacristy Church, priests and faithful who are locked up in the temples between four walls turning their backs on the reality in which they live, the injustices, the repression, and human rights violations,” José Dávila told U.S.-based daily Diario Las Américas. “They want a Church like in China or North Korea, which is subject to the Communist Party and does not criticize anything.”
Among some of the most serious aggressions recorded in Molina’s report were the terrorist attack against the Chapel of the Blood of Christ in the Managua Cathedral on July 31, 2020; a paramilitary group’s armed attack against a small Catholic church in Managua for 15 hours in July 2018; and the sulfuric acid attack against priest Mario Guevara while he was hearing confessions in December 2018.
Nicaraguans around the world commemorated five years since the start of protests against the Ortega-Murillo regime, Nicaraguan newspaper Confidencial reported on April 16. Meanwhile, Amnesty International denounced days later on April 18, that Nicaragua is already employing “new patterns” of human rights violations.
“Today more than ever the international community must continue to act in an articulate and forceful manner,” Erika Guevara Rosas, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas said. “But not only in recognizing and condemning the systematic human rights violations that are occurring under the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, but also in the way in which the rights to justice, truth, and reparation are promoted and guaranteed for the thousands of victims who have been and continue to be the victims of a repressive policy that crushes human rights.”