Whereabouts of imprisoned Nicaraguan bishop are unknown

Bishop Rolando Álvarez Bishop Rolando Álvarez. | Credit: Diocese of Matagalpa

Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, was sentenced on Feb. 10 to 26 years and four months in prison, accused of being a “traitor to the homeland.” In recent days, authorities have not disclosed where he is being held.

The prelate, who refused to be deported along with 222 other political prisoners sent to the United States in a deal with the U.S. State Department on Feb. 9, is supposedly in a maximum security cell in the “La Modelo” prison.

However, his actual whereabouts are unclear.

“The physical and mental health conditions of Bishop Rolando Álvarez are unknown,” Nicaraguan lawyer and researcher Martha Patricia Molina told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, in a March 7 statement. 

“His relatives and authorities of the Catholic Church have asked to visit him or give him food and water; the request has been denied by the authorities of the Nicaraguan Penitentiary System,” she said.

“We know that no one who is in the conditions which the bishop is in can be well,” concluded Molina, who is the author of the report “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church?,” which details 396 attacks that the Church in the Central American country has suffered in recent years.

Lesther Alemán, a young university student who was imprisoned for rebuking dictator President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, for the killing of young people in the 2018 protests, said in a March 4 Twitter post that the authorities denied that Álvarez is in the La Modelo prison.

“Today, authorities from ‘La Modelo’ didn’t allow Bishop Álvarez access to water. Likewise, they denied that our bishop was there.”

“His family doesn’t know his whereabouts, because everywhere they go they deny he’s there. The regime should respond! Where is Bishop Álvarez?” questioned the young man, who now resides in the United States.

In another tweet, Alemán, who belongs to the Nicaraguan University Alliance, expressed his solidarity with the bishop.

“Bishop Álvarez, we young people are with you. Your fortitude infuses us with strength! Your teachings are our conviction. Our fight is just! Those who attack you, slander you, and imprison you are confronting God,” he exclaimed.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) asked the Nicaraguan dictatorship on March 3 to release Álvarez: “We call on the State of Nicaragua to unconditionally release the 37 people who are still arbitrarily deprived of their freedom, including Bishop Álvarez, whose state of health is unknown.”

The OHCHR also urged the Ortega regime to “restore citizenship and other civil, political, social, and economic rights to the more than 300 people affected by the recent decisions.”

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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