The Church is divided in how to respond to revolutionary president turned fervent Christian Daniel Ortega’s attempt to suppress opposition to his authoritarian rule
The persecution of the Church in Nicaragua intensified in the small hours of Friday 19 August when police broke into the residence of Mgr Rolando Álvarez, Bishop of Matagalpa in northern Nicaragua, and took him away with the other clergy and laity who had been blockaded with him for two weeks. Mgr Álvarez was placed under house arrest in his relatives’ home in Managua while others were taken to the city’s El Chipote prison, where they are reportedly confined in one cell and denied contact with relatives and friends.
According to the lawyer Yader Morazán, they were brought before a secret remand hearing on 22 August. The Church authorities are reported as saying: “We don’t know how they are, we know nothing. The situation is lamentable.”
The sight of Mgr Álvarez kneeling in prayer on the pavement outside his residence has been a dramatic symbol of the brutal treatment inflicted on several members of the clergy, which may have been a reason for his removal to a less public site in Managua. Álvarez, 55, head of the Nicaraguan bishops’ communications department, has been a public critic of the authoritarian regime headed by President Daniel Ortega and his wife and vice president Rosario Murillo. He is accused by the authorities of trying to “organise violent groups in order to destabilise the state of Nicaragua and attack the constitutional authorities”, although no evidence has been offered. Police claimed they had waited “for several days with great patience, prudence and a sense of responsibility for a message from the Diocese of Matagalpa, which never came, and the continuing destabilising and provocative activities made the operation necessary”.