White House press secretary responds to EWTN’s question about Nicaraguan persecution of Catholics

White House press secretary White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a White House daily press briefing at the James S. Brady Press Room of the White House Aug. 25, 2022 in Washington, D.C. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

In response to a question from EWTN, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that the Biden administration condemns recent attacks on democratic leaders in Nicaragua, without specifically mentioning those targeting priests and other Catholic leaders.

At Thursday’s White House press briefing, Owen Jensen, EWTN’s White House correspondent, cited a list of recent crimes in which the Ortega-Murillo regime has targeted Catholics. These include abducting the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, last week, throwing several priests and seminarians in a prison known to use torture, and shutting down Catholic media outlets.

Since 2018, under the Ortega dictatorship, there have been more than 190 attacks against the Catholic Church, its bishops, priests, faithful, and houses of worship, Catholic officials in Nicaragua have said.

“I'm sure the White House is aware of [the] latest persecution of Catholics in Nicaragua. What's the White House’s response to the latest developments?” Jensen asked. 

Jean-Pierre turned to a page in her briefing binder and read off an official statement. The statement did not reference Catholics by name.

“There has been a dramatic deterioration of respect for democratic principles and human rights by the regime in Nicaragua, including the imprisonment of democratic leaders, members of the political opposition, students, and journalists,” Jean-Pierre responded.

“The Biden-Harris administration finds this unacceptable and condemns these actions,” she added. 

“The United States and members of the international community have already taken a number of actions to promote accountability for the regime's actions and will continue to do so,” she concluded. You can watch Jean-Pierre's response in the video below.

Fifty-nine countries including the United States signed the Joint Statement on the Human Rights Situation in Nicaragua last June at the 47th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The letter cited concerns about Nicaragua’s “persistent impunity for human rights violations since April 2018 and continued reports of arbitrary detentions.”

“We urge the Government to cease harassment of journalists and human rights defenders and to allow civil society organizations to operate in safe and enabling environments, without fear of reprisal,” it read.

Both the current and former White House administrations have condemned Ortega for these acts. The Trump administration first imposed sanctions against the regime in 2018, and in 2021, President Biden extended sanctions by signing the bi-partisan RENANCER Act. He also called the 2021 re-election of Ortega a “sham.” 

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