Nicaraguan Catholic bishop under house arrest by order of the president – ​​The Organization for World Peace

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On August 19, police raided the home of Catholic Bishop Rolando Álvarez, a prominent critic of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, and placed him under house arrest while taking seven of his colleagues to jail. The raid is the most recent example of escalating tensions between the Nicaraguan government and the Catholic Church, which has led to international condemnation from religious leaders, human rights groups and others. opposition figures.

In response to Álvarez’s house arrest, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was “very concerned about the serious closure of democratic and civic space in Nicaragua and the recent actions against civil society organisations, including those of the Catholic Church”.

The suppression of prominent Catholic voices has been an ongoing problem in Nicaragua, especially since protests erupted in 2018 against unpopular social security reform. Figures such as Vatican Ambassador Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag and Bishop Silvio Báez are among those who have been exiled or fled Nicaragua after speaking out against President Ortega.

Báez tweeted after the announcement of Álvarez’s house arrest, “with a pained and indignant heart, I condemn the nocturnal kidnapping of Monsignor Álvarez… once again the dictatorship has exceeded even its own evil and his evil spirit”.

Equally powerful comments were made by Álvarez himself in 2018 months after the outbreak of the protests, explaining that he hoped “there would be a series of electoral reforms, structural changes in the electoral authority – elections free, fair and transparent, unconditional international observation”. Álvarez’s calls for democratization did not falter over the next four years, posing a threat to Ortega’s regime and leading to his detention.

When protesters first took to the streets in 2018, members of the Catholic Church publicly sympathized with the protesters, offering to broker talks with the government. According to Al Jazeera, after the talks failed, the church issued a statement saying it “would not resume the talks as long as the Nicaraguan people ‘continue to be repressed and murdered’.

With over 50% of Nicaragua’s population being Catholic, the voice of the church at these times carried significant weight in influencing public opinion. Today, he continues to do so as more Ortega critics are silenced. Using the platform of the Catholic Church to advocate for peace and democratic reform has proven dangerous, but also vital. Their power clearly concerns Ortega, leading him to shut down seven church-owned radio stations this month and investigate Catholic leaders on trumped-up charges.

In addition to the authoritarian crackdown on Catholic dissent, the broader silence of the opposition has caused concern both nationally and internationally. There have been dozens of opposition politicians arrested, hundreds of protesters killed and tortured during demonstrations and unjustified imprisonments and harassment of journalists. These events have aroused passionate indignation but also immense fear.

From 2018 to 2020, more than 100,000 Nicaraguans have fled the country, seeking asylum from persecution and human rights abuses, according to the United Nations.

As these violations have become more overt, international criticism has also increased. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the 2021 Nicaraguan presidential election was “a fictitious election devoid of credibility” that attempted “to establish an authoritarian dynasty that is not accountable to the people Nicaraguan”. His remarks echo similar sentiments from the European Union, Canada and neighboring Latin American countries.

Catholic leaders who criticize Ortega are backed by a large international community that shares their fears for the future of Nicaragua under Ortega. Unfortunately, the global response of heavy criticism and punishment has not sufficiently reigned over Ortega’s 15 years of authoritarian hold on power. As Ortega steps up his suppression of all opposition, the global response must also be refocused to better restrain his power.

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