190 attacks against Church in Nicaragua under Daniel Ortega since 2018, report says

Daniel Ortega Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega during the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution at "La Fe" square in Managua on July 19, 2019. | Getty Images

In less than four years, the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been the target of 190 attacks and desecrations, including a fire in the Managua Cathedral, as well as police harassment and persecution of bishops and priests under the regime of Daniel Ortega, the country’s president, a new investigative report shows.

The report, “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church? (2018-2022),” by attorney Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, a member of the Pro-Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory, notes that “the role of the Catholic Church has been fundamental in the crisis of human rights violations that Nicaragua is facing.”

In response to the Catholic Church’s role, the lawyer’s report shows that the regime of Ortega, who has governed Nicaragua continuously since 2007 along with his wife Rosario Murillo (as First Lady and now vice president), "initiated an indiscriminate persecution against bishops, priests, seminarians, religious, lay groups and towards everything that has a direct or indirect relationship with the Catholic Church.”

The document points to the crisis that broke out in April 2018 with protests in Nicaragua over a series of reforms to the social security system, which increased the contribution of companies and employees, as well as deductions for retirees.

Map of Nicaragua. Shutterstock
Map of Nicaragua. Shutterstock

The demonstrations began in the city of León and spread throughout the country. The government’s violent government crackdown left at least 355 dead, the report states.

In 2021, amid allegations of fraud and the political persecution of rival presidential candidates, Ortega was re-elected for the third time as president of Nicaragua.

“Before April 2018 abuses of the Church were sporadic. After that date, hostilities increased and the tone is getting worse," the document notes.

“The offensive and threatening language of the presidential couple against the Catholic hierarchy became more and more evident and frequent; and the actions of some public institutions against the charitable work of the church increased” the report indicates.

Although "we can’t affirm that all the mishaps compiled in this study have been planned and executed by the followers of Ortega-Murillo," Molina’s investigation says, “neither can one plead not guilty."

“The truth is that in years before President Ortega assumed power, these frontal attacks against the religious institution were not carried out,” she points out.

The report notes that in 2018 there were 46 attacks against the Catholic Church, including a mob entering the Managua Cathedral, death threats against Nicaraguan priests, and the desecration of different churches.

In 2019, 48 attacks took place, including death threats against the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio José Báez Ortega, who that same year had to go into exile outside of Nicaragua.

In 2020 there were 40 attacks against the Church, including desecrations and the firebomb attack on the Managua Cathedral, which damaged Blood of Christ Chapel.

In 2021, another 35 attacks were recorded, including desecrations and robberies of churches, as well as insults by Daniel Ortega against Catholic bishops and priests.

So far in 2022, 21 attacks have already been recorded, including the police harassing in May the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando José Álvarez, who is also the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Estelí.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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