Nicaraguan bishop responds to insults by Daniel Ortega, calling him ‘corrupt and criminal’

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. | Credit: Flickr Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Silvio Báez, the exiled auxiliary bishop of Managua living in the United States, responded earlier this week to the most recent insults and attacks by Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega, whom the bishop called “corrupt and criminal.”

“How much ignorance, how many lies and how much cynicism! A dictator giving democracy lessons,” the bishop lamented on Twitter.

Báez said Ortega is “someone who exercises power illegitimately, criticizing the authority that Jesus granted to his Church; an atheist, corrupt and criminal, avowing he is inspired by Christ.”

Ortega spoke at a Feb. 21 event held to commemorate the 89th anniversary of the death of General Augusto C. Sandino, (1893–1934) a guerrilla fighter who opposed American intervention. Named after him, the Sandinistas were the leftist rebels who overthrew President Anastasio Somoza Debayle in 1979.

The Nicaraguan dictator took the occasion to attack the Catholic Church. He said he was raised in Catholicism and then after railing against the Catholic Church, the popes, and Spanish colonialism stated that “Christ was always solidary. His message was of peace and then they tortured him. They killed him. But Christ didn’t die; physically they killed him on the cross. But Christ rose in the peoples and he lives in Christian peoples, not by the example that the priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes can give, who are a mafia.”

After accusing the Church and the Vatican of “crimes,” Ortega  questioned: “What respect can I have for the bishops I knew here in Nicaragua, if they were Somoza supporters? I was a boy when Somoza’s funeral took place, where the bishops went, burying Somoza like a prince, like a cardinal of the Church, simply because Somoza was a henchman, who gave all the advantages to the Church.”

“He was a servant, an agent of Yankee imperialism, and they treated him like that,” added the Nicaraguan dictator, who has been in power for 16 years, since Jan. 10, 2007.

In this fluid context, Ortega was referring to Anastasio Somoza García — who died in 1956 — the father of President Anastasio Somoza Debayle who was president of Nicaragua from 1974 to 1979, the year he was overthrown by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), a left-wing guerrilla group and now Ortega’s political party.

More attacks by Ortega

“I don't believe in popes or kings. Who elects the pope? How many votes does the pope get?” Ortega continued in his speech.

“If we are going to talk about democracy, the people should elect, first of all, the people’s priests. The people who decide if this priest or the other seems good to them. The people should elect the bishops. The one who gets the most support from the population, well, that one will be the bishop,” he went on.

“The people should elect the cardinals and there should be a vote among the Catholic people, everywhere, so that the pope is also elected. Let the people decide and not the mafia organized there in the Vatican!” the dictator exclaimed.

Persecution of the Church in Nicaragua

One of the latest milestones in the persecution of the Church in Nicaragua by the dictatorship of Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, was the recent sentencing of the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, to 26 years and four months in prison.

Bishop Álvarez refused to be deported along with 222 other political prisoners, who arrived in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 9, and is supposedly being held in a maximum security cell in the Nicaraguan prison known as Modelo.

Among those deported were some priests and seminarians who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Ortega in the last year also expelled from the country the apostolic nuncio — the pope’s diplomatic representative — Archbishop Waldemar Stanisław Sommertag and congregations such as the Missionaries of Charity, founded by St. Teresa of Calcutta.

More in Americas

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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