Police confront reporters outside the house of journalist and pre-presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro in Managua on June 2, 2021.
(INTI OCON/AFP via Getty Images)
Tensions are high as pro-regime mouthpieces make thinly veiled threats By Eduardo Campos Lima
— Catholic activists and leaders in Nicaragua fear that a wave of detentions launched by President Daniel Ortega against his political opponents may reach members of the clergy.
Over the past few weeks, Ortega’s regime has arrested 17 political leaders of the opposition, including four potential candidates in the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for November.
A member of the Archdiocese of Managua’s Justice and Peace Commission told the Catholic Herald that each category of targets of the arrest operation — political leaders, pre-candidates, and business executives — had been previously announced by the pro-regime journalist William Grigsby in his radio show, Sin Fronteras.
“He first said that potential candidates for the presidency wouldn’t escape prison, and shortly after that they were arrested. Then he said that ‘white-collar delinquents’ would be detained, and banker Luis Alberto Rivas was arrested,” recalled the Catholic activist, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
“Now he said that the operation still hasn’t reached ‘the ones in cassock.’ He is something like an unofficial spokesman for the government. We’re very worried about our priests,” the activist added.
The activist described the atmosphere in Nicaragua as tense, and recounted seeing a group of four or five students being arrested and taken on a truck by the police shortly before talking to the Catholic Herald by phone.
“Unfortunately, that’s a common scene in Managua,” the activist said.
On June 8, the Justice and Peace Commission released a statement condemning the “aggressiveness of the acts against the citizenly exercise of public liberties.”
“As Christians and citizens, we have the right and the obligation of watching over in conscience the well being of the country,” the statement said.
“Among such duties and rights is the one of having access to citizenship identification, and of voting and being voted for public office in a fair and free way,” the document continued, alluding to the arrests and to the high number of Nicaraguans whose documents of identification expired, estimated in 2016 in up to two million, something that impedes them to vote.
The letter said that the “frank violation of such rights” is “worrisome” and that the “violation of the rights of one Nicaraguan is the violation of the rights of all Nicaraguans.”
“Nobody has the authority to arbitrarily deprive any person of his or her rights, including the rights to expression, mobilization, and freely acting,” the letter went on.
According to Bishop Carlos Aviles, who heads the Justice and Peace Commission, the idea of the manifestation was to “encourage the people.”
“We wanted to give hope to the people,” he told the Herald. “With the repression and the arrests of members of the opposition, many ended up losing their interest in taking part of the elections, something that makes frauds easier.”
The Church has been denouncing injustice and trying to point to peaceful political alternatives for the current crisis, Aviles said.