Nicaraguans respond to ‘staged’ prison interview with Bishop Álvarez

Bishop Rolando Álvarez Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, Nicaragua. | Credit: Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Báez, who lives in exile in the United States, called the Daniel Ortega dictatorship’s staging this weekend of a prison interview with Bishop Rolando Álvarez “repugnant and cynical.”

Álvarez was sentenced to 26 years and four months in prison on Feb. 10 as a “traitor to the homeland.”

El 19 Digital, a news outlet supportive of the dictatorship, released over the weekend photos and a video of Álvarez, the bishop of Matagalpa, who was visited by a brother and sister on March 25 in the prison known as La Modelo.

In the images, the bishop is wearing his blue prisoner uniform in a clean room surrounded by white curtains and is seen eating with his siblings Vilma and Manuel Antonio at a round table.

In the room there are also three blue armchairs with a coffee table and several potted plants.

“I was very happy to see the photos of my brother, Bishop Rolando. I thank God he’s alive! The scenography of the dictatorship was repugnant and cynical and does not expunge its crime,” Báez tweeted. 

“The power of the prayer of the people and international pressure have been revealed. Release him now!” the prelate added.

In October 2022, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights published a report that cited a number of human rights violations committed in that prison, such as overcrowding of prisoners, lack of medical care, prison staff assaulting inmates, detention of visiting relatives, and food mixed with detergent.

Martha Patricia Molina, a Nicaraguan lawyer and researcher, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that “the regime yielded to social pressure, and obviously everything was staged to put on a show and say that the bishop is not imprisoned but in a vacation spot.”

“Bishop Rolando José is a bishop of peace and good. We have observed a humble bishop, strengthened, serene, and joyful but mistreated in his physical aspect. He demonstrated humility the whole time to show his executioners that he does not repay evil for evil,” said the author of the report “Nicaragua, A Persecuted Church?”

Félix Maradiaga, a former presidential candidate who was deported to the United States in February with more than 200 political prisoners, pointed out on Twitter that “for those of us who know the prisons of the dictatorship, we know that the serene smile of Bishop Álvarez is due to his courage and faith in God.”

“With these images, the dictatorship isn’t fooling anyone! The bishop’s rights are infringed and he has been abducted! We demand his immediate release,” he remarked.

Maradiaga pointed out in a second tweet that “Bishop Álvarez is in prison because he was the only voice left free to preach the truth in Nicaragua: ‘We are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness’ #Libertad.”

Father Uriel Vallejos, a priest who managed to escape the persecution of the regime in September 2022 and who now lives in exile, charged on Twitter that “the regime presents Bishop Rolando on a stage set up to sell a false image; which does not correspond to the daily treatment of psychological and inhuman torture.”

“His spirit is strong and he shows the dignity of a people humiliated and shamefully treated by the cruel dictatorship,” the priest said.

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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