The repression of independent voices and institutions in Nicaragua continues, with the Ortega-Murillo regime taking particular aim at the Catholic Church.
Nicaraguan police recently started a criminal investigation targeting Bishop Rolando Alvarez, head of the Matagalpa diocese, for allegedly “organizing violent groups and inciting them to commit hate.”
Before being confined to his house on August 4 and prevented from celebrating mass in church, Bishop Alvarez had condemned the regime for violations of freedom of expression, including closing several Catholic and other independent radio stations.
In its latest report on the state of religious freedom in Nicaragua, the State Department noted that Nicaragua was once again placed on the Special Watch List “for having engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.”
The report cites the harassment and intimidation of Catholic worshippers by the Nicaraguan National Police; death threats against members of the clergy; accusations against priests and bishops for national security crimes; attacks by the police and violent mobs of pro-government supporters on religious institutions.
The State Department noted that a journalist from La Prensa said the regime has been engaging in “open war” against the Catholic Church since April 2018, when peaceful, nationwide anti-government protests were met with brutal force, and priests and bishops condemned the response and repression.
In March, the Ortega-Murillo regime expelled the papal nuncio from Nicaragua; in June, it stripped the legal status from the community of nuns founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, forcing them to leave the country.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols expressed outrage at the conduct of the regime. He tweeted, “Ortega’s brutal assault on Catholic clergy, radio facilities and community members in Sebaco is another blow to religious freedom in Nicaragua as well as to freedom of expression.”
USAID Administrator Samantha Power tweeted, “Not the kind of history any leader should wish to make: Ortega has forced 1,000 non-governmental groups to close this year. The latest target is radio stations. We stand with Nicaraguans in opposing these desperate attempts to silence an entire nation.”
Over the past year, the United States has imposed numerous sanctions on Nicaraguan officials to promote accountability for the regime’s abuses. The United States continues to call on the Ortega-Murillo regime to respect the human rights of Nicaraguans, including their rights to freedom of expression and religion or belief.