The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) condemns the intensifying attacks and repression by the Regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo against civil society, the church, the press, members of the opposition, and dissident voices in Nicaragua.
We are concerned that authoritarian practices in Nicaragua continue to seriously affect fundamental rights such as the right to political participation, freedom of the press and expression, and recently also through actions that undermine freedom of worship and religion.
The forced entry into the Diocese of Matagalpa, Nicaragua, and the arrest of Bishop Rolando Alvarez Lagos in the early hours of August 19, mark an escalation in the harassment and criminalization of critical voices whose role has been relevant in exposing the complex reality experienced by the Nicaraguan people.
The diocese of Matagalpa, in the north of the country, denounced that the National Police had entered the bishop’s house during the early hours of the morning. Later, the Nicaraguan police confirmed that Monsignor Alvarez Lagos is being held under house arrest.
This is not an isolated incident but is part of a strategy of repression that has included a number of attacks, such as the closure of six Catholic Church radio stations at the beginning of August. The spurious accusations against the bishop are part of the same pattern of persecution and criminalization that Ortega and his police have used against political opponents, journalists, religious orders, and human rights defenders, among others.
The role of the international community remains vital at this time. WOLA urges the U.S. government, the Holy See and international organizations to join in urging the Nicaraguan government to cease these human rights violations.
For the past 16 days, Ortega’s police have held the diocese of Matagalpa under siege, preventing the bishop and ten other priests, seminarians, and others from leaving. On August 5, he announced that he had opened an investigation against Monsignor Alvarez Lagos for “organizing violent groups, inciting them to carry out acts of hatred against the population, provoking an atmosphere of anxiety and disorder, altering the peace and harmony in the community, with the purpose of destabilizing the State of Nicaragua”.
Bishop Alvarez Lagos is one of the voices of the Nicaraguan Catholic hierarchy most critical of the Ortega and Murillo regime. In his sermons, the bishop has harshly questioned the abuses committed by the regime. Since 2018, when government repression intensified after massive protests, Ortega and his wife have blamed the Catholic Church for promoting sedition and, as of this August, intensified this persecution.