The Nicaraguan Police entered this Friday the residence of the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando José Álvarez , a critic of the government, who for the last two weeks was prevented from leaving the place to be investigated for trying to “destabilize” the country.
“SOS. Urgent. At this time the National Police has entered the Episcopal Curia of our Diocese of Matagalpa” where Álvarez is located, the Diocese of Matagalpa published on its Facebook account at dawn on Friday, without providing further details.
The whereabouts of the bishop and those who accompanied him in the curia are unknown. The authorities have not provided information so far, while critical media outlets of the government and some voices from exile assure that Álvarez was detained and taken from his residence.
“How outrageous, they have taken Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, with the priests who were with him. Enough of so much silence! Let those who have to speak and show their faces speak, that is called a sin of omission,” said the priest. Edwing Román, exiled in Miami, on social networks.
“What was evident was going to happen happened. It is the arbitrary and abusive detention of Monsignor Álvarez,” commented human rights defender Pablo Cuevas, also from Miami.
Álvarez, bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa, in the north of the country, had been held in the curia along with a dozen people since August 4.
The police besieged the curia days after Álvarez denounced the closure by the authorities of five Catholic stations and demanded that the government of Daniel Ortega respect religious “freedom”.
Meanwhile, the police announced that the Diocese of Matagalpa is being investigated for trying to “organize violent groups” and incite “hate” to “destabilize the State of Nicaragua.”
“We are in the hands of God,” said the prelate this Thursday.
ringing of bells
At the time of the raid, in the middle of the night, there was a ringing of bells that would have alerted the parishioners of what was happening, according to a video broadcast on social networks.
The retention of the bishop occurred in the midst of friction between the Church and the government of Ortega, a 76-year-old former guerrilla who has been in power since 2007, protected by three successive re-elections.
The last one was in November 2021, with his opponents imprisoned or exiled and in the midst of international questions.
The president accuses the bishops of “coup plotters” for supporting the opposition protests that called for his resignation in 2018.
In the midst of the crisis, the Church tried in 2018 and 2019 to mediate a dialogue between the government and the opposition.
The president reproached the bishops for having accepted an opposition proposal that sought to resolve the crisis by advancing the 2021 elections to shorten his presidential term.
Tension between Nicaraguan government and Catholic Church
Since then, relations have deteriorated. This year there was a closure of Catholic media, including the Episcopal Conference channel, and the recent arrest of priest Oscar Benavídez, for unknown reasons.
The Missionaries of Charity Association , of the order of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who left the country in July, was also outlawed. In March, the apostolic nuncio, Waldemar Sommertag, who participated in 2019 in the negotiations between the government and the opposition, had already been expelled.
On Wednesday, 26 former heads of state or government of Spain and Latin America published a call to Pope Francis, who has not spoken publicly about the situation, to adopt “a firm position in defense of the Nicaraguan people and their religious freedom.”
The “primitive dictatorship of the Ortega-Murillos” (alluding to his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo) is advancing “towards the persecution of Catholic episcopal leaders, priests and nuns,” deplore conservative-leaning statesmen, including José María Aznar (Spain), Iván Duque and Alvaro Uribe (Colombia) or Luis Lacalle Herrera and Julio María Sanguinetti (Uruguay).
With information from AFP