A Latin American cardinal recently denounced his government as “demonic, based on envy and every kind of evil”. Surely it must be Venezuela, where the regime of Nicolás Maduro has been repeatedly denounced by the country’s bishops?
Not this time. Those were the words of Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes of Managua, denouncing the regime of Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega this past Saturday. Which suggests that there might be a new boldness from Latin American bishops in the face of bad governance and human rights violations.
Nicaragua has been engulfed by mass protests in recent weeks, put down by the government with lethal force. Dozens of protestors have been killed and there are reports of torture of dissidents.
In mid-April the Ortega administration announced reforms to the country’s pension system, raising contributions and limiting pensions. Mass protests followed which the army was deployed to control, resulting in some 27 deaths. Ortega backed down on the pension proposals, but the protests continued against the violent government reaction.
The Church has strongly encouraged the protestors, with Bishop Silvio José Baez Ortega, auxiliary bishop of Managua, emerging as a vocal leader of protest. On April 21, he addressed 2,000 students in Managua cathedral, praising them as the “moral reservoir” of the Church.
Fr Víctor Rivas Bustamante of the Nicaraguan bishops’ conference told Vatican News that pension reform is no longer the primary issue, but the bishops are supporting the people as they demand action on “other issues … democracy, freedom of expression and many other things.”
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