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Ortega Continues Crackdown on Catholic Church – The Organization for World Peace

August 15thethe Nicaraguan Catholic Church reported that Óscar Benavidez, a priest from the northern diocese of Siuna, was arrested after celebrating mass, Reuters reported.

Relations between the Church and the government of President Daniel Ortega have been strained in recent months. The government has shut down Catholic radio stations, as well as banned religious processions, according to CNN, and The Washington Post reports that Ortega has taken more than 150 political prisoners in recent years. In a statement, the Church said it “[does] not knowing the causes or motives of [Benavidez’s] detention, and … hope[s] the authorities will keep [it] informed.”

Although the Church has acted as a mediator between the government and its opponents, traditionally stepping in to administer support and services to underserved populations in the region as a whole, its relationship soured after a violent response to anti-government protests. -Ortega in 2018. Further highlighting the repression is the imprisonment of Rolando Álvarez, the Bishop of Matagalpa, who was placed under house arrest for more than 10 days while under investigation for an alleged conspiracy. According to The Washington Post, Álvarez was one of the most prominent Catholic critics of Ortega’s authoritarian behavior.

Álvarez’s house arrest and subsequent imprisonment prompted a response from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who told reporters through a deputy spokesman that he was “very concerned about the serious closure of democratic and civic space in Nicaragua and the recent actions against civil society organizations, especially those of the Catholic Church.

The Association of American States and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also condemned Álvarez’s arrest, demanding the “immediate release” of the bishop and other detainees.

The Ortega administration’s attacks on Nicaraguan civil society, including the Catholic Church, cannot be ignored. Pope Francis must notably comment on these attacks against Nicaraguan civil society and democracy in general. Although the Holy See has expressed concern over the situation in Nicaragua, given the crucial role the Church plays in the State, it has both a duty and a responsibility, to its clergy and to its electors. Nicaraguans in general, to speak out loud and clear on these issues.

International actors like the United Nations and regional powers like the United States also have a responsibility to condemn Ortega’s growing authoritarianism.

The international political and religious community cannot accept the violent regime of President Ortega. Those who have the freedom and ability to express themselves must do so.