Nicaragua’s government claims that imprisoned Catholic bishop Rolando Alvarez is in good health, but the United States remains skeptical, calling a recent photo of him with a doctor “staged” and demanding his immediate release.
Bishop Alvarez, a vocal critic of President Daniel Ortega, has been imprisoned since August 2022 and was sentenced to 26 years in jail for “treason” last February. His case has become a symbol of the Ortega regime’s crackdown on dissent, and the Church specifically, drawing international condemnation and concern about the bishop’s well-being.
Nicaraguan authorities recently announced that Bishop Alvarez underwent a “medical examination” by a doctor in the presence of police officials. As reported by AFP on January 3, the government claimed his “vital signs and state of health are fine,” and went so far as to publish a photograph of the bishop alongside a doctor to support their assertion.
However, the US State Department promptly dismissed the photo as a staged propaganda effort. In a statement, the department expressed deep concerns about Alvarez’s prolonged isolation, lack of independent medical evaluation, and the overall conditions of his imprisonment.
“For 500 days, Bishop Alvarez has been unjustly incarcerated,” the statement read. “He is denied access to independent medical care, kept in isolation, and subjected to staged media appearances that only heighten concerns about his well-being.”
The US further condemned the “harsh treatment of Bishop Alvarez and other religious figures” in Nicaragua, urging the government to “immediately release all those unjustly detained, respect religious freedom, and allow independent human rights monitors access to all detainees.”
The situation surrounding Bishop Alvarez remains uncertain. He refused to board a US-bound plane carrying political prisoners into exile shortly before his sentencing, saying that he would stay to suffer with his flock.
While Nicaragua insists Bishop Alvarez is in good health, the US and international human rights groups remain unconvinced. The lack of independent access to the bishop and the questionable nature of the government’s claims raise serious concerns about his treatment and the broader human rights situation in Nicaragua.
Just this week, the Holy Father has asked for insistent prayer for Nicaragua. His latest appeal came after more priests and another bishop were arrested.