By Nehomar Hernández*
The regime of Daniel Ortega deployed last year a ferocious offensive against Catholics in Nicaragua.
Now, with the arrival of 2023, the Sandinista fury towards priests, nuns and faithful has only intensified, giving way to an atmosphere of absolute repression of freedom of worship.
Those who profess Catholicism have become the main target of an operation to wipe any hint of resistance to Ortega’s regime off the map.
The imprisonment and subsequent sentencing to 27 years in jail of the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, was a very clear signal from Ortega to his detractors, but especially to those who confront him from the field of religious faith.
In a scenario in which political parties, unions and dissident unions have been persecuted, infiltrated and even judicially cancelled, the Catholic-Christian congregations seem to have become the last great bastion of dissidence against the regime.
After all, Catholicism is, according to official figures, the majority religion in the Hispanic American nation, and its Church is one of the institutions with the highest levels of credibility in general.
It is estimated that at least 45% of Nicaraguans are Catholic.
If added to this a slightly smaller percentage of people who practice some form of Protestantism (such as Evangelicals), we have that about 90% of the population is registered within the framework of Christian religions.
Recently, and within the framework of the Holy Week celebrations, the Nicaraguan regime opted to try to twist the arm of Catholics even more by suppressing at a national level the realization of the traditional processions where thousands of Nicaraguans express their faith vividly on a regular basis.
In this context, the organization Monitoreo Azul y Blanco reported 71 human rights violations between April 1 and 9 in the Central American nation.
This report reports 14 threats, 9 harassments, 21 detentions, and 25 sieges to Catholic temples during this period.
According to information gathered by the BBC, the Ortega regime has structured a sort of citizen spy network through the so-called Councils of Citizen Power (CPC) which are active in every neighborhood of the country.
The CPCs keep a detailed registry of persons identified as committed Catholics, meaning they are permanently under surveillance.
At the same time, they impose obstacles for any type of procedures that they intend to carry out with the State (in things as simple as processing identification documents, for example).
Testimonies gathered by this media also indicate that the imprisonment of Monsignor Rolando Álvarez has become a forbidden topic in churches throughout the Nicaraguan territory.
It is forbidden for religious people to express opinions on the matter during their homilies.
Ortega’s barrage against Catholics led to the arrest of journalist Victor Ticay, arrested for broadcasting a religious ceremony through a Facebook account.
There is no clear information on Ticay’s whereabouts and detention conditions.
Last week the Ortega regime also chose to expel from the country the Panamanian priest Donancio Alarcón, after he officiated a mass on Holy Monday.
Although the people who were detained by the regime during Holy Week should have been presented before the courts within a maximum of 48 hours, at the beginning of this week, the whereabouts and physical condition of most of them were still unknown, so their relatives demanded the dictatorship to know where and how they are.
At this point neither Ortega nor any official spokesperson has issued any statement on this matter.
*Venezuelan journalist (Universidad Central de Venezuela) and Master in Political Science (Universidad Simón Bolívar). He is currently working on his doctoral thesis in Political Science and hosts the radio program “Y Así Nos Va” on Radio Caracas Radio.
With information from LGI