Ortega wants to “silence” the Church in Nicaragua, the bishop says:

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Nicaraguan Catholic Bishop Rolando Alvarez, who has started an “indefinite fast” to protest against a “police siege” against him, denounced on Friday that the government of Daniel Ortega wants to “silence the voice of the Church” against injustices .

“What is happening is that the government has always pretended to be a silent Church, does not want us to speak, does not want us to announce hope to the people, nor does it denounce injustice”, Alvarez told AFP in the Cristo Santo parish of Managua, from where on Thursday evening he declared an “indefinite fast”.

It’s a kind of hunger strike where he only drinks water and serum. Alvarez is bishop of Matagalpa and apostolic administrator of the diocese of Esteli (north). He is also responsible for the Communication area of ​​the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua (CEN).

According to the cleric, the government wants to “silence the voice of the church”, but “if we remain silent, the stones will cry out”, he said.

Alvarez has previously criticized the repression, the imprisonment of opponents and questioned the ambitions of power. More than 40 opponents, including seven presidential candidates, were arrested in 2021 and sentenced to prison terms of up to 13 years for “undermining integrity” and other crimes.

All this before Ortega, a former guerrilla in power since 2007, is 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 has also declared dozens of civil society organizations illegal and expelled the OAS from its territory. “In Nicaragua, everyone lives in a situation of terror. We move through the streets and see how the patrols come and go,” Alvarez said.

“Here not only the religious, the priests, but also the vast majority of Nicaraguans live in permanent harassment,” he accused. Hundreds of parishioners have expressed their solidarity with the bishop through social networks and through prayers in the parishes.

“Rolando, friend, the people are with you”, “We are united in prayer for Monsignor Alvarez and all the priests”, “God protect him”, said some of the messages he received on the networks.

Higher orders

The priest began the fast after denouncing Thursday that he had been “persecuted” all day by the police. He revealed that when he asked the officers to stop pursuing him, the officers told him they were following “higher orders”.

“They entered my circle of family intimacy (…) endangering the safety of my family,” he accused. Faced with this situation, the bishop took refuge in a parish in Managua, where he was taken in by the parish priest Carlos Herrera. The church was surrounded by police.

He said he would drop his protest when the police pledged, 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 explained later during a virtual mass this Friday from Parish, which aired on the Catholic Channel, which airs on cable.

“I will not allow my rights to be violated,” he added, pleading for “respect for the diversity of ideas and opinions.”

After the mass, the Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Post (Telcor, regulator), ordered the withdrawal of the Catholic channel of the Episcopal Conference from the cable television network.

“We inform our subscription television users that, according to indications from Telcor, the regulator, channel 51, Canal Católico, is removed from the service’s programming schedule,” telecommunications company Claro Nicaragua reported on Twitter.

According to the local press, the measure has been extended to the rest of the country’s cable television companies.

Accused by the government

Ortega has repeatedly and publicly accused the bishops of “putschists” for sheltering in their temples protesters who fled or were injured during the crackdown on protests that erupted against the government in 2018.

Since then, relations between the government and the Church have been strained.

The Catholic hierarchs also tried unsuccessfully to broker a dialogue between the government and the opposition after this crisis and conveyed to Ortega the opposition’s proposal to bring forward an election to shorten his term.

“I was hurt that my bishops had the attitude of putschists,” reproached them at the time Ortega.

“Those who still dare to cry out (…) in the name of Jesus Christ should be ashamed of themselves”, warned the vice-president and wife of the president, Rosario Murillo, in April this year.

In March, the Vatican’s representative in Nicaragua, Poland’s Waldemar Sommertag, was expelled from the country, a decision the Holy See called “incomprehensible.”

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