In a new attack against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, the dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega canceled the legal status and registration of 25 institutions, including that of the Franciscan Friars Minor and those of several other Christian denomination groups.

This decision by the regime was announced Oct. 24 through the official government newspaper La Gaceta, which noted that eight of the 25 nonprofit organizations requested the cancellation voluntarily.

Some of the other 17 nongovernmental organizations canceled by the dictatorship are the Order of the Franciscan Friars Minor of the Seraphic Province of Assisi in Nicaragua, the Association of Women Golondrinas, the Center for Comprehensive Care of Boys and Girls with Autism Foundation, the International Church of Christ Association in Nicaragua, the True Vine Christian Ministry Association and the St. Francis Medical Specialists Association.

Among the reasons given by the dictatorship for the cancellation of these organizations is that they allegedly did not report their financial statements nor their boards of directors.

The notice signed by Minister of the Interior María Amelia Coronel Kinloch specifies that the liquid and fixed assets of these 17 organizations will be turned over to the government of Nicaragua through the attorney general’s office of the republic.

Religious and academic freedom ‘under fire’ in Nicaragua

Félix Maradiaga, former presidential candidate and president of the Libertad foundation now living in exile, posted a statement on X Oct. 25 in which he pointed out that the arbitrary occupation of the St. Francis of Assisi Institute in Matagalpa, as part of the legal cancellation of the Franciscans, is a “violation of religious freedom which follows the pattern of confiscating private Catholic schools and universities, including the recent expropriation of the Jesuit University (UCA) this year.”

In August, Ortega’s dictatorship expropriated Central American University and Villa Carmen, the residence of six elderly Jesuits, canceled the legal personality of the order, and transferred all its assets to the state.

Maradiaga emphasized in his statement that the Franciscan institute, founded in Matagalpa by Friar Aquiles Bonucci in 1972, “has been an essential part of the provincial Franciscan educational project” with its schools in Managua, Matagalpa, and Juigalpa.

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After recalling that religious freedom and education are essential in society, the activist reiterated that they will continue to draw the attention of the “international community to this serious situation,” particularly of “the organizations that protect human rights and the freedom of worship, so that they take action.”

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