Nicaraguan Catholic Bishop Rolando Álvarez, who began an “indefinite fast” in protest at a “police siege” against him, denounced this Friday that the government of Daniel Ortega intends to “squelch the voice of the Church” against injustices.
“What happens is that the government has always wanted a mute Church, it doesn’t want us to speak, it doesn’t want us to announce hope to the people, or denounce injustice,” Álvarez told AFP in the Cristo Santo parish in Managua, from where Thursday night he declared himself on “indefinite fast.”
It is a kind of hunger strike where you will only drink water and serum. Álvarez is bishop of Matagalpa and apostolic administrator of the diocese of Estelí (north). He is also in charge of the Communication area of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua (CEN).RELATED
According to the priest, the government wants to “silence the voice of the church,” but “if we remain silent, the stones will cry out,” he asserted.
Álvarez has previously criticized the repression, the imprisonment of opponents and questioned the ambitions for power.
More than 40 opponents, including seven presidential hopefuls, were arrested in 2021 and sentenced to up to 13 years in prison for “undermining integrity” and other crimes.
All this before Ortega, a former guerrilla in power since 2007, was re-elected in November 2021 for a fourth consecutive term. He accuses his opponents of wanting to overthrow him with the support of Washington.
The government also declared dozens of civil society organizations illegal and expelled the OAS from its territory.
“Everyone in Nicaragua is experiencing a situation of terror. You walk through the streets and see how the patrols come and go,” Álvarez said.
“Here not only religious, priests, but also the vast majority of Nicaraguans live in permanent harassment,” he accused.
Hundreds of parishioners showed solidarity with the bishop through social networks and with prayers in the parishes.
“Rolando, friend, the people are with you”, “We are united in prayer for Monsignor Álvarez and all the priests”, “God protect him”, said some of the messages he received on the networks.
– “Superior orders” -The priest began his fast after denouncing on Thursday that he was “persecuted” throughout the day by the police.
He revealed that when he asked the officers to stop chasing him, the officers told him they were obeying “superior orders.”
“They entered my circle of family privacy (…) putting the safety of my family at risk,” he charged. Faced with this situation, the bishop sought refuge in a parish in Managua, where he was welcomed by the priest Carlos Herrera. The church was surrounded by the police.
He said that he will abandon his protest when the police agree, through the president or vice president of the Episcopal Conference, to respect his integrity and that of his family.
“It is an act of salvation, it is not political, it is of faith”, so that “my individual rights as a citizen” are respected, “he later explained during a virtual mass this Friday from the parish, which was broadcast by the Catholic Channel, which was broadcast on cable.
“I am not going to allow my rights to be violated,” he added, advocating “respect for the diversity of ideas and opinions.”
After the mass, the state Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Post Office (Telcor, regulator), ordered the Catholic Channel of the Episcopal Conference to be removed from the cable television grid.
“We inform our subscription television users that according to instructions from Telcor, the regulatory entity, channel 51, Canal Católico, is being removed from the service programming grid,” reported the telecommunication company Claro Nicaragua on Twitter.
According to the local press, the measure was extended to the rest of the cable TV companies in the country.
– Accused by the government -Ortega has repeatedly and publicly accused the bishops of “coup plotters” for sheltering in their churches protesters who fled or were injured during the repression of the protests that broke out against the government in 2018.
Since then, relations between the government and the Church have been tense.
The Catholic hierarchs also tried unsuccessfully to mediate a dialogue between the government and the opposition after that crisis, and transferred to Ortega the opposition’s proposal to bring forward the elections to cut his government term.
“It hurt me that my bishops had that coup-mongering attitude,” Ortega reproached them then.
“Those who still dare to shout (…) in the name of Jesus Christ should be ashamed,” the vice president and wife of the president, Rosario Murillo, warned in April of this year.
In March, the Vatican representative in Nicaragua, the Pole Waldemar Sommertag, was expelled from the country, a decision that the Holy See considered “incomprehensible.”
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