The government of President Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua on Wednesday revoked the legal personhood of the Society of Jesus and ordered the transfer of all its assets to the state. 

The move by the dictatorship takes place amid a growing wave of harassment against the religious order.

According to ministerial agreement 105-2023-OSFL, published Aug. 23 in La Gaceta, the regime’s official newspaper, Minister of the Interior María Amelia Coronel Kinloch approved “the cancellation of the legal personhood of the Nicaraguan Company of Jesus Association, for breaches of the law.”

Regarding “the destination of assets and real estate,” the document states that the attorney general’s office will carry out the “transfer of these to the name of the State of Nicaragua.”

The dictatorship charged that the Society of Jesus, registered in the public records since July 1995, allegedly had not reported “its financial statements [for the] fiscal periods 2020, 2021, and 2022.”

In a statement, the Nicaraguan University Alliance (AUN) “roundly” condemned the confiscation by “the Sandinista dictatorship of Daniel Ortega.” 

“This action is just another chapter in the Sandinistas’ relentless persecution of the Catholic Church and the faith that nurtures our nation,” the statement said.

Despite the official confirmation in La Gaceta on Wednesday, the government had already begun to confiscate the property of the religious order days before.

On Aug. 15 it expropriated the Central American University (UCA) and its assets and on Aug. 19, the dictatorship seized without justification the residence of the Jesuits in Villa Carmen, which is located next to the UCA but is owned by the order, not the university.

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“The UCA, once a bastion of academic excellence and freedom, has already been stolen by the Sandinista dictatorship, demonstrating its hostility towards the Jesuits and quality education. Now, with this new offensive, they are endangering thousands of children and young people who benefit from the noble educational work of the Jesuits,” the AUN charged.

The organization pointed out that “the Sandinista dictatorship threatens the viability of innumerable works of charity that the Jesuits carry out in the country, impacting the lives of the most vulnerable.”

“We urge the international community and the defenders of human rights and religious freedom to unite in condemnation and in action against this outrage by the Sandinista dictatorship,” the message concluded.

The Central American Province of the Society of Jesus called on Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, to “cease the repression” in the country following the cancellation of their legal personhood and the transfer of all its property and real estate to the state.

In an Aug. 23 statement posted on X, the religious order said it “condemns this new aggression against the Nicaraguan Jesuits,” which takes place “in a national context of systematic repression classified as ‘crimes against humanity’ by the group of human rights experts on Nicaragua formed by the United Nations.”

The province urged the presidential couple to “cease the repression” and “accept the search for a rational solution in which truth, justice, dialogue, respect for human rights, and the rule of law prevail.”

The Jesuits also called for “respect for the freedom and total integrity of the Jesuits and the people who collaborate with them or with whom they collaborate.”

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The order pointed out in its statement that the decision was made without proving that the administrative procedures established by law were not carried out.

As has been observed in most of the more than 3,000 similar cases of the revocation of legal status that have been executed by the government since 2018, “this agreement was carried out without giving an opportunity for legitimate defense on the part of the Jesuits and without there being an impartial judicial body to judge and stop these totally unjustified and arbitrary abuses of authority,” the Central American Province declared.

For the Jesuits, the confiscation of their assets and property is “aimed at the full establishment of a totalitarian regime.”

The province held Ortega and Murillo responsible for not establishing “conditions of independence and neutrality of the judiciary that allows it to take measures to stop, reverse, and sanction” such unjust measures.

At the end of its statement, the Central American Province said that it “joins the thousands of Nicaraguan victims who are waiting for justice to be done and the damage that the current Nicaraguan government is causing to be repaired.”

The province closed by expressing its appreciation for “the innumerable expressions of recognition, support, and solidarity that it has received in the face of these growing outrages.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.