The former presidential candidate, who was running against Ortega when the regime had him arrested, said that in addition to those mentioned, 20 people were arrested in connection with “processions or public activities of the Catholic Church” during Holy Week.
One of those arrested was journalist Víctor Ticay, who was taken into custody by the police on Holy Thursday after he livestreamed a Holy Week event on social media the day before.
After stating that the situation for the Church there is “extremely worrying” and that “Nicaragua has become one of the most hostile countries for Catholic clergy,” Maradiaga warned that the regime seeks to “silence the Church, whose pastoral voice was adverse to the plans of the Ortega-Murillo couple to establish a dynastic tyranny.”
Ortega has been in power for 15 years, and many consider two of his elections fraudulent.
For Maradiaga, it’s not an exaggeration to describe the dictatorial regime as “satanic.”
“I am referring to the perverse foundations on which the dictatorship is founded and the evil that inspires its actions. It’s a regime thirsty for power and for the blood of innocents,” he charged.
In his opinion, the prohibition of the outdoor Stations of the Cross and of various popular Holy Week devotions, such as that of the “Cyreneans,” to try to control the population “is like rotten fish pretending to be the main course at a dinner.”
After thanking Pope Francis for his criticism of the Ortega dictatorship, Maradiaga warned that it is possible that expulsions will continue, such as the recent expulsion of Panamanian priest Donaciano Alarcón, and therefore “it is essential to increase international condemnation, and that is what we are concentrating on.”
Freedom for Bishop Rolando Álvarez
After noting that the dictatorship employs some 20,000 police officers to repress a country of 6.6 million people and that 9% of the population has left the country in the last four years, Maradiaga called for the release of Bishop Rolando Álvarez.
“As a Catholic, but above all as a Nicaraguan, I feel personally grateful for the courage and dignity of Bishop Rolando Álvarez. His words when rejecting exile, ‘Let them go free, I’ll pay for their sentences,’ have meant a sentence of 26 years in the terrible prisons of the regime,” he said.
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“His sacrifice, inspired by the Spirit of God, keeps alive our fight for his freedom and that of the other 36 people who are still being held by the dictatorship,” he added.
Álvarez, the bishop of Matagalpa, was accused of being a “traitor to the country” and sentenced on Feb. 10. The day before, he refused to be deported to the United States and preferred to remain in the “La Modelo” prison in Nicaragua.
Maradiaga called on the Catholics of the world to express their solidarity with the persecuted Church in Nicaragua.
This weekend and the days that follow, marches and events have been scheduled in various cities in the U.S. to demand freedom for Nicaragua and the release of Álvarez.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.