The recent wave of arrests targeting Catholic leaders in Nicaragua has ignited further international criticism and raised alarm bells about the deteriorating state of religious freedom in the country.As read in the note published by Crux, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, speaking on January 2, used stark language to describe the situation, declaring President Daniel Ortega’s regime “a dictatorship, to be sure, it’s also one that’s off the rails.”
His comments came on the heels of the arrest of Bishop Isidoro Mora Ortega on December 20.
Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa remains imprisoned. These events represent the latest escalation in a broader crackdown on the Church, which also saw at least 15 priests and two seminarians arrested in the final days of 2023.
A statement issued by the State Department on January 2 denounced the continued detention of religious leaders and accused the regime of imposing “severe restrictions on religious communities” and denying Nicaraguans their right to religious freedom.
Crux notes how Archbishop Wenski’s blunt assessment echoed these concerns, highlighting the escalating nature of the persecution and expressing frustration with the regime’s apparent lack of clear objectives. “It’s a deteriorating situation where the government is persecuting the church, and it’s hard to see what the end game of this is,” he stated.
His words carry particular weight given Miami’s large Nicaraguan population and the city’s role as a hub for exiled dissidents. Many of those released from Nicaragua in a prisoner exchange last year found refuge in Miami, where Archbishop Wenski offered them temporary housing at a local seminary.
The recent developments underscore the deepening political and religious crisis in Nicaragua and raise fears about the potential for further escalation. Whether international pressure and condemnations will be enough to influence the Ortega regime’s course remains an open question, but the mounting outrage over the crackdown on the Church shows no signs of abating.