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Nicaraguan Police Remove Bishop From His Home: Church

#Nicaraguan #Police #Remove #Bishop #Home #Church

Nicaraguan police on Friday forcibly removed Catholic bishop and government critic Rolando Alvarez from his official residence after a two-week siege, church and rights groups said, which had no news of his whereabouts.

Alvarez, along with several priests and laypeople, had been holed up in his residence in Matagalpa, central Nicaragua, since August 4, amid allegations by the authorities of inciting violence to destabilize the Central American country.

The incident is the latest in a deepening standoff between civil society and a government accused of growing authoritarianism.

The Catholic Church in Nicaragua has come under increasing pressure from the government since opposition protests were met with repression in 2018 that claimed hundreds of lives.

President Daniel Ortega accused bishops of complicity and said protesters were using church buildings as “barracks.”

The action against Alvarez, 55, began when riot police prevented him from leaving the house to say mass earlier this month, and days later the bishop announced he was under virtual “house arrest.”

On Friday, the Latin American Bishops’ Conference tweeted that “the national police entered the residence of our diocese of Matagalpa and arrested the bishop.”

“His whereabouts are still unknown,” added the tweet, tagged “#SOS” and “#URGENT.”

Vilma Nunez of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) told AFP the police “removed him by force and it is not known where they took him”.

There was no official word on Alvarez’s incarceration.

– “Dictatorship kidnapped” bishop –

In the early hours of the morning, the Diocese of Matagalpa announced that the police had entered the Church’s residence.

“How outrageous they took Monsignor Rolando Alvarez with the priests who were with him,” Nicaraguan priest Edwing Roman tweeted in exile in Miami.

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

The last vote came in November 2021, after Ortega’s main rivals were jailed, joining dozens of 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 bloc said, Nicaraguan authorities shut down over 1,200 civil society organizations.

The Vatican said Nicaragua expelled its ambassador from the country in March.

Last week, the Cenidh said another Nicaraguan priest, Oscar Benavidez, was “removed from his vehicle and taken to an undisclosed location in a patrol car.”

Arturo McFields, a former Nicaraguan ambassador to the Organization of American States, tweeted Friday that “the dictatorship has kidnapped Rolando Alvarez…continues its hellish persecution of the church.”

McFields himself was fired after publicly describing his country as a dictatorship and denouncing the existence of “political prisoners”.

Earlier this week, 26 former leaders from Spain and Latin America issued a call for Pope Francis – who has not spoken publicly on the situation in Nicaragua – to “take a firm stance in defense of the Nicaraguan people and their religious freedom.”

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#Nicaraguan #Police #Remove #Bishop #Home #Church

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