Nicaraguan police detained a bishop and different clergymen in a pre-dawn raid
MEXICO CITY — Nicaraguan police on Friday raided the residence of a Roman Catholic bishop vital of President Daniel Ortega’s administration, detaining him and a number of other different clergymen in a dramatic escalation of tensions between the church and a authorities more and more illiberal of dissent.
The pre-dawn raid got here after Nicaraguan authorities had accused Matagalpa Bishop Rolando Álvarez of “organizing violent groups” and inciting them “to carry out acts of hate against the population.”
President Daniel Ortega’s authorities has moved systematically in opposition to voices of dissent, arresting dozens of opposition leaders final 12 months, together with seven potential candidates to problem him for the presidency. They had been sentenced to jail this 12 months in fast trials closed to the general public.
The congress, dominated by Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front, has ordered the closure of greater than 1,000 nongovernmental organizations, together with Mother Teresa’s charity.
Early Friday, the Matagalpa diocese posted on social media, “#SOS #Urgente. At this time the National Police have entered the Episcopal rectory of our Matagalpa diocese.”
The National Police confirmed the detentions in an announcement later, saying that the operation was carried out to permit “the citizenry and families of Matagalpa to recover normalcy.”
“For several days a positive communication from the Matagalpa diocese was awaited with a lot of patience, prudence and sense of responsibility, that never materialized,” the assertion stated. “With the continuation of the destabilizing and provocative activities, the aforementioned public order operation became necessary.”
It didn’t point out particular expenses.
Álvarez was being held below guard at a home in Managua, the place he had been allowed to fulfill with kinfolk and Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, the police assertion stated.
The others who had been taken with Álvarez — they didn’t specify who or what number of — had been nonetheless being processed, police stated.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the detentions and known as for the speedy launch of these held.
Edwin Román, a Nicaraguan parish priest exiled within the United States stated through Twitter: “MY GOD! How outrageous, they have taken Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, with the priests who were with him.”
Streets across the cathedral in Matagalpa had been comparatively empty Friday. Just a few parishioners prayed inside, the place an image of Álvarez had been pinned to the gown of a Jesus Christ determine.
María Lacayo stated she felt “very sad because we know that our bishop is innocent and an excellent man.”
“We all love him very much because he is there for all of us and it’s a tremendous injustice what is being done to him. But as Catholics we leave everything in God’s hands,” she added.
Álvarez has been a key spiritual voice in discussions of Nicaragua’s future since 2018, when a wave of protests in opposition to Ortega’s authorities led to a sweeping crackdown on opponents.
“We hope there would be a series of electoral reforms, structural changes to the electoral authority — free, just and transparent elections, international observation without conditions,” Álvarez stated a month after the protests broke out. “Effectively the democratization of the country.”
At the time, a priest in Álvarez’s diocese had been wounded within the arm by shrapnel whereas attempting to separate protesters and police in Matagalpa.
Álvarez has stored up such requires democracy for the previous 4 years, infuriating Ortega and Murillo.
Manuel Orozco, an skilled on Nicaragua on the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, stated that Álvarez posed a menace as an impediment and an emblem to Ortega.
“Nicaraguans are very loyal to the church,” he stated. “In a survey I did last year, 70% of Nicaraguans say that to them, the political opinion of the religious authority at the national or the parochial level was important in shaping their political views.”
“(Álvarez’s) narrative, it’s based on the religious script, the biblical script about opposing the oppressor,” Orozco stated. “And he makes allusions not to incite violence or to call for resistance, but he does say there is oppression.”
Orozco stated the federal government is betting its strain on the church will not carry a “proportional response” by the worldwide neighborhood. “And so they continue to push the envelope because they don’t see that short of a military invasion, there is not going to be anything that can stop them.”
Friday’s arrests comply with weeks of elevated tensions between the church and Ortega’s authorities, which has had a sophisticated relationship with Nicaragua’s predominant faith and its leaders for greater than 4 many years.
The former Marxist guerrilla infuriated the Vatican within the Nineteen Eighties, however regularly solid an alliance with the church as he moved to regain the presidency in 2007 after a protracted interval out of energy. Now he seems to as soon as once more see political profit in direct confrontation.
Ortega initially invited the church to mediate talks with protesters in 2018, however has since taken a extra aggressive place.
Days earlier than final 12 months’s presidential elections, which he received for a fourth consecutive time period together with his strongest opponents jailed, he accused the bishops of getting drafted a political proposal in 2018 on behalf “of the terrorists, at the service of the Yankees. … These bishops are also terrorists.”
In March, Nicaragua expelled the papal nuncio, the Vatican’s high diplomat in Nicaragua.
The authorities had beforehand shut down eight radio stations and one tv channel in Matagalpa province, north of Managua. Seven of the radio stations had been run by the church.
The Aug. 5 announcement that Álvarez was below investigation got here simply hours after first woman and Vice President Rosario Murillo criticized “sins against spirituality” and “the exhibition of hate” in an obvious reference to Álvarez.
The Archdiocese of Managua had earlier expressed assist for Álvarez. The convention of Latin American Catholic bishops decried what it known as a “siege” of clergymen and bishops, the expulsion of members of non secular communities and “constant harassment” focusing on the Nicaraguan folks and the church.
The Vatican remained silent in regards to the investigation of Álvarez for practically two weeks, drawing criticism from some Latin American human rights activists and intellectuals.
That silence was damaged final Friday when Monsignor Juan Antonio Cruz, the Vatican’s everlasting observer to the Organization of American States, expressed concern in regards to the scenario and requested each events to “seek ways of understanding.”
The Vatican once more supplied no remark Friday and did not report the news instantly on its in-house media portal. While staying mum, apparently in hopes of not inflaming tensions, the Vatican has been publishing common expressions of solidarity from Latin American bishops in current days on its Vatican News web site.
The president of Nicaragua’s Episcopal Conference didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
The big avenue protests throughout Nicaragua in 2018 known as for Ortega to step down. Ortega maintained the protests had been a coup try carried out with international backing and the assist of the church.