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Congressional hearing demands the urgent release of Nicaraguan bishop


Diocesis de Matagalpa

Daniel Esparza - published on 12/12/23

Human right activists and members of Congress argue the bishop is facing mistreatment and even potential torture under Ortega’s regime.
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A congressional hearing held last Thursday focused on an urgent appeal demanding the immediate release of Catholic Bishop Rolando Álvarez in Nicaragua. Human right activists and members of Congress argue the bishop is facing mistreatment and even potential torture under Ortega’s regime.

Chaired by New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations conducted the hearing, titled An Urgent Appeal to Let Bishop Álvarez Go.

Testimonies were provided by undisclosed Nicaraguan exiles who had either experienced or witnessed the inhumane treatment of political prisoners by the Ortega government.

Representative Smith asserted that Bishop Álvarez, the 56-year-old leader of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, is innocent of the crimes he was accused of.

In his initial hearing, Álvarez was accused of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity,” of the “dissemination of fake news to the detriment of the Nicaraguan State and society,” and of “crimes against spirituality.”

Other US voices

This is not the first time American authorities have denounced the ongoing persecution of the Catholic church in Nicaragua. John I. Jenkins, the then president of the University of Notre Dame, published a long op-ed article in the Washington Post. In it, Jenkins rightly says that “Ortega’s attempt to extinguish Catholicism in Nicaragua merits world condemnation on a much larger, and louder, scale.”

To back up his claim, Jenkins refers to the most recent edition of a series of reports on the Catholic Church in Nicaragua by exiled civil rights lawyer and researcher Martha Patricia Molina. The report documented 529 attacks over the past five years — 90 so far this year. The Church is being systematically targeted because it is “the last [independent] bastion left in Nicaragua.”

After refusing to leave with 222 political prisoners flown to the U.S. in February 2023, Bishop Rolando Álvarez was sentenced to 26 years in prison in Nicaragua.

According to media reports quoted by NPR, “Álvarez stopped at the stairs leading to the airplane and said, ‘Let the others be free. I will endure their punishment.’”

Álvarez has always been openly critical of Daniel Ortega’s regime. In May 2018, he was part of a team from the Bishops’ Conference who tried to mediate between Ortega and the opposition. The dialogue quickly broke down, leading to strong protests that were met with violent repression. Tensions have only increased since then.

NicaraguaPersecution of Christians
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