United Nations equates Sandinista Nicaragua with Nazism

Daniel Ortega Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega speaks to supporters during a rally in Managua, on Sept. 5, 2018. | Inti Ocon/AFP via Getty Images)

Amid ongoing reports of oppression of the Catholic Church and the Nicaraguan people under the regime of President Daniel Ortega, concerns grow about worsening persecution.

The U.N. is among those concerned, likening Nicaragua’s Sandinista government to Nazi Germany.

“The use of the justice system against political opponents, as in Nicaragua, is exactly what the Nazi regime did,” said Jan Michael Simon, according to The Río Times. His comments were also reported in other news outlets, including The New York Times. Simon chairs the U.N.’s Human Rights Group on Nicaragua, which was established in 2018 to report on the ongoing repression of political dissidents and the Catholic Church. 

According to the report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo and their government have held their people “hostage” while committing “widespread and systematic human rights violations that amount to crimes against humanity.”

Ortega and wife Murillo acted “in a joint and coordinated manner” during protests between April and September 2018,” Simon said, adding: “They have been weaponizing the justice system, weaponizing the legislative function, weaponizing the executive function of the State against the population.”

Among the regime’s targets, Bishop Rolando Álvarez, one of the strongest critics of the regime, was stripped of his citizenship and sentenced on Feb. 9 to 26 years in prison after refusing exile as commanded by Ortega. In addition, more than 200 of his compatriots were released from prison and forcibly exiled to the United States. The Sandinistas have begun expropriating their properties, according to Voice of America. Some were stripped of their citizenship.

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, an attorney and media fellow at the Institute for Human Ecology Institute at the Catholic University of America, has written extensively about human rights challenges in Nicaragua and elsewhere in Latin America. Picciotti-Bayer is also the director of the Conscience Project and the mother of 10 children. 

Picciotti-Bayer applauded Bishop Álvarez and fellow Nicaraguan bishops for calling on priests and religious to stand firm in the face of the Sandinistas. “While Bishop Álvarez is cut off from his people, the Church continues to be a voice not only for him and his people but also to rally global opinion about what is happening,” she said. The U.N. and the State Department have both called for the bishop’s release from prison.

“The U.N. is calling out Ortega for his brutality and hoping Ortega and the Sandinistas will disappear. But what I worry about is that they will up their game and that the oppression will become something we’ve not seen since Nazi Germany, as far as the attempt to silence any opposition,” Picciotti-Bayer said while pointing out that the Sandinistas receive arms and economic assistance from communist China and Venezuela.

Response of the Pope and U.S. Bishops

U.S. Catholic bishops and Pope Francis have added to the chorus of condemnations of the repression taking place in Nicaragua and the treatment of Bishop Álvarez.

“His sentencing marks yet another escalated human rights violation in the ongoing ordeal the Catholic Church faces in Nicaragua,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement. And during his Feb. 12 Angelus address to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis prayed for Álvarez and the 222 Nicaraguans deported to the U.S. “and for all those who suffer in the beloved nation of Nicaragua.”

While the Sandinista government has increased its persecution of its people, according to the U.S. government, in fiscal year 2022, 163,876 Nicaraguans were encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border: the largest number ever and eclipsing the numbers of Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans encountered. This represented a steep increase over FY 2021 (50,722) and an exponential increase from FY 2020 (only 3,164).

“They don’t have any other choice. These Nicaraguans are not leaving just because of economic concerns, but because [of] their autonomy and safety and the safety of their children,” said Picciotti-Bayer. “That should concern the U.S. because it is never good that people have to leave their homeland because of oppression; but it also [is] putting a strain on our country and a politically charged immigration system,” 

But she underscored the humanitarian aspect.

“Catholics are called to have a greater concern for our brothers and sisters, whether they’re believers or just brothers and sisters on this earth. Paying attention to the shift towards these more totalitarian and authoritarian regimes in the Americas: If there isn’t an unequivocal response by the global community and the U.S. to stop Ortega, other countries with similar leaders may feel that they behave similarly with no repercussions,” said Picciotti-Bayer.

“The tide has turned on Ortega as the United States is making this known,” Picciotti-Bayer said about Ortega’s deportation of his fellow citizens. 

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