International News

Bishop of Nicaragua besieged at home by police

#Bishop #Nicaragua #besieged #home #police

A Nicaraguan bishop critical of the regime has been locked in his home by police in a rapidly deepening standoff between civil society and a government widely accused of authoritarianism.

Rolando Alvarez has been holed up in the bishop’s residence in the northern city of Matagalpa since Thursday when police prevented him from saying mass.

According to an AFP photographer and video journalist there, he was not allowed to leave until Friday and police remained at the scene.

Human rights watchdog Cenidh said on Twitter Thursday that “armed police officers have erected a barrier preventing him (Alvarez) from leaving his home.”

And in a video also posted online, Alvarez said: “I wanted to go to the cathedral to say Holy Mass, but apparently the authorities … didn’t give permission; we are locked up here” in the bishop’s residence.

He condemned the official “harassment” and called on the government to respect freedom of religion.

The church in Nicaragua has come under increasing government pressure since opposition protests in 2018 met repression that left 355 dead, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Ortega, who claims the protests were part of a Washington-backed opposition plot to unseat him, has also accused bishops of complicity and said protesters used church buildings as “barracks.”

Churches offered shelter to protesters who were injured or went into hiding.

– “Violation of Freedom” –

On Monday, Alvarez condemned the authorities’ closure of five radio stations in his Matagalpa diocese.

This followed the closure of several Catholic TV stations in June.

The European Union on Thursday condemned the “arbitrary” closure of Catholic and community broadcasters, saying “excessive police force was used to occupy the facilities and to intimidate and disperse unarmed protesters”.

EU spokesman Peter Stano said in a statement that this was a “further violation of freedom of expression and freedom of religion and belief.”

Ortega, a 76-year-old former guerrilla fighter, has ruled Nicaragua since 2007 and won three consecutive re-elections.

The last vote took place in November 2021, when several of Ortega’s main competitors joined other government opponents and critics in prison.

According to the EU, there are more than 180 “political prisoners” in Nicaragua.

In the first half of 2022, the EU said Nicaraguan authorities shut down over 1,200 civil society organizations.

According to the Vatican, Nicaragua expelled its ambassador from the country in March.

A charity founded by Mother Teresa was banned in July and her nuns were forced to leave the country.

Other non-religious media have also accused the Ortega government of harassment that has forced media workers to flee abroad.

Last month, the Committee to Protect Journalists asked Nicaragua to “stop raiding journalists’ homes and allow the media to work freely.”

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#Bishop #Nicaragua #besieged #home #police

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