The latest wave of repression from the Daniel Ortega-Rosario Murillo regime is hitting the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, severely punishing those who try to denounce the human rights issues that Nicaraguans experience, says the August Political Analysis Supplement report of Costa Rica-based think tank Center for Transdisciplinary Studies of Central America (CETCAM).
Meanwhile, the report Nicaragua: A persecuted church? 2018-2022 by lawyer Martha Patricia Molina, a member of the Pro-Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory of Nicaragua, records and systematizes the attacks on the Catholic Church since the outbreak of the socio-political crisis in April 2018 until May 2022.
“The Ortega-Murillo dictatorship wants to completely annihilate the Catholic Church in Nicaragua because the bishops and priests speak the truth, condemning at all times the arbitrariness, corruption, impunity, injustices, disproportionate use of force by the National Police and the Nicaraguan Army,” Molina told Diálogo on September 12. “The Catholic Church is not willing to worship the dictatorship, which has completely wiped out the division of powers and institutionality in the country.”
“The confrontation of the regime […] with the Catholic Church is reaching one of its highest points and it [the regime] wants to force them to take one of three paths: silence in the face of the situation in the country, jail, or banishment, in case they do not lower their heads,” CETCAM said. “This escalation of confrontation […] against the church [seeks] to finish silencing all critical or non-subordinate voices that exist. Hence, the church and particularly certain religious leaders, are seen by Ortega and Murillo as ‘enemies’ that hinder the imposition of their dominant power.”
According to Molina, there were attacks of various kinds on the church, such as graffiti on churches and anonymous messages; desecration of churches and robberies; public threats by people affiliated with the regime; aggressions, persecution, harassment, and pressure to leave the country; restrictions and cancellation of legal status of non-profit and charitable religious organizations.
On August 1, the dictatorship intensified its offensive against leaders of the Catholic Church, ordering the closure of eight Catholic radio stations in the Diocese of Matagalpa, Catholic news website Vatican News reported. Days later, police deployed to the Episcopal Curia of Matagalpa, where they detained Bishop Rolando Álvarez, 10 clergymen, and a cameraman for 15 days.
Police, via Twitter, accused “the Catholic Church headed by Bishop Rolando Álvarez […] of organizing violent groups, inciting them to carry out acts of hatred against the population. [This] disturbs peace and harmony in the community […].”On August 19, Police said that Álvarez would remain under house arrest and the rest of the clergymen would be transferred to the jail of the Directorate of Judicial Aid, in Managua, known as “El Nuevo Chipote.”
That same day, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the repression against the clergy, urging the regime to immediately cease these acts, release Bishop Álvarez and the other detained persons, provide information on their whereabouts and guarantee their right to life and personal integrity.
Yader Morazán, a lawyer and an administration of justice expert in Nicaragua, who keeps a meticulous record of the regime’s proceedings against the Catholic Church, told Diálogo on September 8 that the police do not have the power to impose “house arrest” as it falls exclusively to the judiciary through a process or hearing, with concrete facts formally expressed before the accused person accompanied by his defense.
In 2022, the Ortega-Murillo regime also ostracized and banned other members of the Catholic Church. In July, the National Assembly cancelled the legal status of the foundation of the Missionary of Charity of Saint Teresa of Calcutta and expelled 18 missionaries who maintained a home for infants.
In March, the regime expelled Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, Vatican ambassador to Managua since 2018. The Vatican stated that the measure was incomprehensible, as during his mission the bishop worked tirelessly for the good of the church and the Nicaraguan people.
“All the trials against the 205 political prisoners, including priests, seminarians, and lay people, are not in accordance with the law. In Nicaragua at this moment the law of the jungle is prevailing, the law of the strongest, which in any case is Daniel Ortega and his consort, since they have the Armed Forces in their favor,” Molina concluded.