MEXICO CITY ( Associated Press) – The United States ambassador for religious freedom condemned Thursday that the Nicaraguan government is imprisoning 11 religious and forcing many more into exile as part of a campaign of church attacks and persecution. have make. Catholics of that country.
Rashad Hussein offered a press conference in New York with Nicaraguan human rights defenders Juan Carlos Arce and Leyla Prado in the framework of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UN).
President Joe Biden’s diplomat and adviser on religious matters said the “increased attacks” by the Daniel Ortega government on the Catholic Church and its loyalists are particularly alarming.
He said that in recent months the Nicaraguan government shut down 10 Catholic radio stations and expelled 18 nuns by order of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who had been working in the country for several years.
He indicated that Ortega also forced several priests into exile and that he sent a further six to prison, most of them without charge, as well as two seminarians, one deacon and one layman, all of them under Bishop Rolando lvarez. There were associates, who are under house arrest. From 42 days ago.
Hussein accompanied Ars from the Nicaraguan Never Again Human Rights Collective at the conference, who said his country is experiencing “a dramatic situation” as the Sandinista government is determined to eliminate any signs of dissent.
Ars recalled that in March Ortega expelled country-inspired nuncio Valdemar Sommertag, who had intervened in 2019 for amnesty for imprisoned opponents. He said 29 of the more than 1,800 non-governmental organizations closed by the government this year were religious in nature, including Catholic schools and universities.
Regarding Bishop lvarez, he said the bishop is “forcibly missing”, because his condition is unknown and “no one has seen him” as police confined him to a house in Managua on 19 August and with permanent surveillance was.
According to Ars, this week the Nicaraguan government banned popular religious processions in the capital’s neighboring city of Masaya and Camopa in the country’s center. “The population can no longer express their faith on the street, this is a violation of religious freedom and freedom of expression,” he said.
For his part, Nicaragua’s Permanent Human Rights Commission (CPDH) lawyer Prado said Ortega seeks to “shut down the Catholic Church” and has implemented “a systematic persecution of critical voices” or dissidents.
Prado pointed out that three of the 11 jailed priests have been tried in “spurious, contradictory and illegal trials” and that both were charged with alleged common crimes and did not have the right of independent defence.
“The government holds the sword of Damocles over the church: silence, prison or exile,” said the jurist.
Both the CPDH and the Nicaraguan Never Again Collective operate abroad, as their directors and activists went into exile due to harassment and threats from the government.
According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Nicaragua is facing a serious political crisis that began in April 2018, when police and paramilitary forces violently suppressed a social uprising, leading to 355 deaths, There were over 2,000 wounded, 1,600 captives, and over 100,000 deported. (IACHR).
Ortega dismissed the IACHR figures and attributed the protests to “a failed coup” against them. He has also said that Catholic bishops support the opposition because they are “the devil in the cassocks”.
In November, the 76-year-old president was re-elected for a fourth consecutive term after imprisoning his main contenders. According to the opposition, there are more than 205 political prisoners in various jails of the country.