In the midst of the escalation against the Catholic Church, accused of backing up its opponents, Ortega’s government has this year prohibited the public holding of the traditional Easter processions.
At least 21 people were arrested in Nicaragua during Holy Week for defying the ban imposed by the Managua authorities on publicly celebrating the rites of the Easter holidays. The largest number of accidents, occurred in the city of Masaya, south of Managua, where at least five people were arrested and eight Catholic churches were besieged by the police. In the midst of the escalation against the Catholic Church, accused of backing up its opponents, Ortega’s government has this year prohibited the public holding of the traditional Easter processions.
According to researcher Martha Patricia Molina, who in 2022 registered 160 attacks by the regime against the Church, “the dictatorship started 2023 since January 1st, aggressively, with more frontal attacks. Just in Holy Week I have registered the prohibition and suspension of more than 3176 processions nationwide, a very significant number of aggressions, considering that each diocese has its own processions each one of the days of Holy Week.”
In an interview granted to the Argentine agency “Infobae”, the pontiff had equated the situation of human rights in the Central American country to that of the dictatorships of the twentieth century, hypothesizing for the president, Daniel Ortega, a situation of “imbalance”.
Pope Francis talked also about bishop Alvarez and said: “there we have a bishop imprisoned. A serious person, very capable, who wanted to bear witness and did not accept exile”. As a reaction to the interview a note from the Foreign Ministry, asked the Holy See to close the respective diplomatic offices.
The Nicaraguan authorities withdrew, with two successive decisions, the nationality and stripped the assets of over 300 citizens accused of “treason to the country”. On 9 February they released and expelled to the United States 222 people convicted “of committing acts that threaten the independence, sovereignty and self-determination of the people”, as well as “of inciting violence, terrorism and economic destabilisation”.
Shortly after their departure, thanks to a constitutional reform approved in record time, he deprived them of their nationality. Among the 222 prisoners expelled are some of the most relevant names of the anti-government front, including the seven opponents arrested in the days when they tried to run for president in the 2021 elections: Cristiana Chamorro, daughter of former president Violeta, the academic and activist Felix Maradiaga, former Sandinista guerrilla Dora Maria Tellez.
Bishop Rolando Alvarez, under house arrest, would also be included in the list: he refused to leave the country, and was sentenced the next day to 26 years and four months in prison. A week later, the Court of Appeal of Managua disclosed the names of 94 other people deprived of nationality, again for the violation of the law that protects “independence and national sovereignty”: a list that includes, among others, the director of the newspaper “Confidencial”, Carlos Fernando Chamorro, the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Baez, the president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, Vilma Nunes, the writers Sergio Ramirez and Gioconda Belli, the former guerrilla Monica Baltodano and the former Foreign Secretary Norman Caldera. Judge Ernesto Rodriguez Mejia specified that the 94 suspects are also barred from holding public office for an indefinite period.
Furthermore, also in March, the government of Nicaragua cancelled the legal personality of Caritas. The cancellation, reports the newspaper “La Prensa”, was granted for “voluntary dissolution of its members”. According to what was reported by the Managua authorities, Caritas itself would have asked for the revocation of its legal personality last December. A decision which, writes the newspaper, was taken in the context of growing government pressure against NGOs operating in the country and the Catholic Church in particular.
Five years after the outbreak of the civil protests, repressed with deadly repression by the Ortega dictatorship, the result left 355 fatalities according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), more than 500,000 exiled and the imposition of a de facto police state. Nonetheless, “the memory of April (2018) continues to worry them,” points out Gonzalo Carrion, member of the Nicaragua Never Again Human Rights Collective.
(Photo: Church El Calvario. Masaya/Pavón)