Some major persecution incidents have taken place in Nicaragua in recent weeks:
- 12 December 2022: Two Catholic journalists from the Diocese of Matagalpa, Manuel Obando and Wilberto Artola, were “kidnapped” by police officers, without being told what the charges against them were and where they were going (Aleteia, 12 December 2022). They appeared before the District Court of Managua on 15 December and were charged without the crimes they had allegedly committed being specified (Fuentes Confiables, 15 December 2022).
- 27 January 2023: The four priests, two seminarians and a cameraman who were arrested on 19 August 2022 along with Bishop Rolando Alvarez, were sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of treason. That same week, the Roman Catholic priest of the Espiritu Santo - Mulukuku parish, was also sentenced to 10 years in prison, charged with treason. None of the legal processes against church leaders follow the minimum guarantees of human rights (Infobae, 7 February 2023).
- 12 February 2023: Bishop Rolando Alvarez under arrest since August 2022, has been sentenced to 26 years and 4 months imprisonment in an express trial on 9 February (Christian Post, February 12, 2023). He was found guilty of the “crimes of undermining national integrity, propagation of false news through information technology, obstruction of functions, aggravated disobedience or contempt of authority, all of this committed to the detriment of society and the State of the Republic of Nicaragua” (El País, 17 February 2023). In addition, the regime deprived the bishop of his Nicaraguan citizenship. The sentencing took place after the bishop refused to accept exile to the USA which was offered by the government to 222 political prisoners, including several priests, seminarians and Catholic church employees (The Pillar, 14 February 2023). The bishop has been assigned to a punishment cell in La Modelo prison (20km from Managua), where he is being held incommunicado (CNA, 3 March 2023).
- 21 February 2023: The government published a list of 94 people to be stripped of their Nicaraguan citizenship (in addition the 222 named on 9 February). Among those named are key advocates for religious freedom such as Bishop Silvo Jose Baez (Auxiliary Bishop of Managua) and Uriel Vallejos, a Catholic priest from Matagalpa. The government accuses them of being fugitives from justice and traitors to the fatherland (Vatican News, 21 February 2023).
- March 2023: Traditional Catholic festivities outside have been banned by the government in the run-up to Easter in April (Gaudium Press, 3 March 2023). In order to impose this restriction, several churches have been surrounded by the police to prevent outdoor acts of worship from taking place (Twitter, 11 March 2023). Back in December 2022, the government had also banned traditional Catholic celebrations in public (International Observatory for Religious Freedom, 8 December 2022).
- 9 March 2023: The government has ordered the closure of Christian NGOs Caritas Nicaragua and Caritas Diocesana de Jinotega, in addition to canceling the legal status of two Catholic universities in the country, the Autonomous Christian University of Nicaragua (UCAN) and the Juan Pablo II University. A further 24 NGOs had their assets and facilities confiscated (Religion in Liberty, 9 March 2023).
- 12 March 2023: In reaction to statements by Pope Francis labeling the Nicaraguan government a dictatorship, the regime suspended the diplomatic relationship with the Vatican and ordered the closure of the Vatican Embassy in Managua and that of the Nicaraguan Embassy to the Vatican in Rome (Reuter, 12 March 2023).
World Watch Research analyst Rossana Ramirez comments: “The escalation in politically motivated religious freedom violations in Nicaragua comes as no surprise, especially since the country has just entered the Top 50 countries of the Open Doors World Watch List 2023, released in January 2023. The government of Daniel Ortega is continuously displaying contempt for Christians considered to be opponents of the regime, a clear indication of the main Persecution engine in operation, Dicta-torial paranoia.”
Rossana Ramirez adds: “There are at least 40 political prisoners in the country, among them Bishop Rolando Álvarez, whose exact situation in prison is uncertain. Urgent international responses by such organizations as the United Nations (UN News, 2 March 2023) and the Organization of American States (OAS, 31 January 2022) are key for the prevention of further human rights violations and for creating possibilities for dialogue and a return to democracy.”