Mexico Metropolis — Nicaraguan police raided the residence of a Roman Catholic bishop who criticized the administration of President Daniel Ortega on Friday, taking him and a number of other different pastors into custody as tensions between the church and the federal government escalated dramatically.

The raids befell earlier than daybreak after Nicaraguan authorities accused Matagalpa Bishop Rolando lvarez of “organizing violent teams” and inciting them to “commit acts of hatred in opposition to the inhabitants”.

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. He was sentenced this 12 months to jail in speedy trials that had been closed to the general public.

Congress, dominated by Ortega’s Sandinista Nationwide Liberation Entrance, has ordered the closure of greater than 1,000 NGOs, together with Mom Teresa’s charity.

Early Friday, the Diocese of Matagalpa posted on social media, “#SOS #Urgente. At the moment the Nationwide Police has entered the Episcopal Rectory of our Matgalpa Diocese.”

The Nationwide Police later confirmed the detention in a press release, saying the operation was carried out to permit “to deliver the residents and households of Matagalpa to normalcy”.

“With nice persistence, discretion and a way of duty, a constructive communication from the Diocese of Matagalpa was awaited for a number of days, which by no means materialised,” the assertion stated. “With the continuance of risky and provocative actions, the operation of the above public order grew to become mandatory.”

It didn’t point out particular allegations.

The police assertion stated Alvarez was being held at a home in Managua, the place he was allowed to go to family members and Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes.

Police stated the opposite individuals who had been taken with Alvarez didn’t say who or what number of had been nonetheless being processed.

The Inter-American Fee on Human Rights condemned the detention and known as for the quick launch of these captured.

Edwin Roman, a parish priest from Nicaragua exiled in america, stated by way of Twitter: “My God! How disgraceful, they’ve taken Monsignor Rolando lvarez with their clergymen.”

The streets across the cathedral in Matagalpa had been comparatively empty on Friday. Some parishioners prayed inside, the place an image of Alvarez rests on the gown of the determine of Jesus Christ.

Maria Lacayo stated she is “deeply saddened as a result of we all know that our bishop is harmless and an impressive man.”

“All of us love him very a lot as a result of he’s there for all of us and it’s a nice injustice to him. However as Catholics we go away all the pieces within the arms of God,” he stated.

Alvarez has been a outstanding non secular voice in discussions of Nicaragua’s future since 2018, when a wave of protests in opposition to Ortega’s authorities led to widespread crackdowns on opponents.

“We anticipate a collection of electoral reforms, structural adjustments in electoral authority – free, honest and clear elections, worldwide commentary with out situations,” Alvarez stated a month after the protests started. “Successfully democratizing the nation.”

On the time, a priest within the Diocese of Alvarez was wounded within the arm by shrapnel whereas making an attempt to separate protesters and police in Matagalpa.

Alvarez has continued to make such requires democracy for the previous 4 years, which has angered Ortega and Murillo.

Manuel Orozco, a Nicaraguan skilled on the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, stated Alvarez posed a menace to Ortega as an impediment and image.

“Nicaraguans are very loyal to the church,” he stated. “In a ballot I carried out final 12 months, 70% of Nicaraguans say that for them, the political opinion of non secular authority at a nationwide or slim degree was necessary in shaping their political beliefs.”

“(Alvarez’s) legend, it is based mostly on the non secular script, the biblical script about resisting the oppressor,” Orozco stated. “And that does not point out incitement to violence or requires resistance, however what he says is harassment.”

Orozco stated the federal government was pressuring the church to not deliver a couple of “proportionate response” by the worldwide group. “And they also proceed to push the envelope as a result of they do not see the dearth of a navy offensive, nothing goes to cease them.”

Friday’s arrest comes after weeks of heightened pressure between the church and Ortega’s authorities, which has had a sophisticated relationship with Nicaragua’s dominant faith and its leaders for greater than 4 many years.

The previous Marxist guerrilla enraged the Vatican within the Eighties however progressively solid an alliance with the church as he went on to hunt the presidency in 2007 after an extended interval out of energy. Now as soon as once more he appears to be seeing political positive aspects 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, during which he received a fourth consecutive time by jailing his strongest opponents, he accused the bishops of getting ready a political decision in 2018 “on behalf of terrorists, within the service of the Yankees.” … these bishops are additionally terrorists.”

In March, Nicaragua expelled Pope Nuncio, the Vatican’s prime diplomat in Nicaragua.

The federal government had beforehand shut down eight radio stations and a tv channel within the province of Matagalpa, north of Managua. Seven radio stations had been run by the church.

The August 5 announcement that Alvarez was below investigation got here simply hours after First Woman and Vice President Rosario Murillo criticized Alvarez’s express reference to “a sin in opposition to spirituality” and an “exposition of hatred”.

The Archdiocese of Managua had beforehand expressed assist for lvarez. The Convention of Latin American Catholic Bishops known as it a “siege” of clergymen and bishops, the expulsion of members of non secular communities, and “fixed persecution” focusing on the Nicaraguan individuals and church.

The Vatican remained silent for almost two weeks in regards to the investigation into Alvarez, criticized by some Latin American human rights activists and intellectuals.

That silence was damaged final Friday when Monsignor Juan Antonio Cruz, the Vatican’s everlasting observer for the Group of American States, expressed concern in regards to the state of affairs and known as on either side to “discover methods to grasp”.

The Vatican once more didn’t touch upon Friday and didn’t instantly report the information on its in-house media portal. In silence, apparently hoping to fire up pressure, the Vatican has been publishing common expressions of solidarity from Latin American bishops on its Vatican Information website in current days.

The president of Nicaragua’s Episcopal Convention didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

Large avenue protests in Nicaragua in 2018 known as for Ortega to step down. Ortega stated the protests had been an try at a coup with overseas backing and church assist.


Related Press author Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.

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