The bishop of the Dioceses of Matagalpa and apostolic administrator of the Dioceses of Estelí, Monsignor Rolando Alvarez, managed to get out of the Santo Cristo parish, in the sector of Las Colinas, Managua, where he safeguarded himself since Thursday night and was under police besiegement. Since May 23rd, Monday morning, Monsignor Alvarez is in the Matagalpa Seminary. However, as was the case in Managua, in Matagalpa there is a police cordon in the vicinity of the seminary and in the Archbishop’s Curia, which the bishop was unable to reach.
Alvarez’s exit occurred after a communication between a priest and the government, although it is not known who was in charge of the negotiation. A source linked to the Catholic Church confirmed to Confidencial that the police who had cordoned off the Las Colinas Church left around 6 a.m. on Monday, and a group of priests from the Dioceses of Managua came to support Alvarez’s departure. He was met by another group of priests on the road to Matagalpa, two hours north of the capital.
However, on the way to Matagalpa, several police patrols escorted the vehicle in which the bishop was transported. Police units were positioned in front and in back of the vehicle. “It was an amazing police deployment,” estimated at 15 patrol vehicles total, according to the source.
Due to the enormous harassment, the priest was not able to reach the Archbishop’s Curia, which is currently under police siege, and he withdrew to the Seminary.
Alvarez’s relocation from Managua to Matagalpa was possible after the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference tried to communicate with the Chief of Police, Ortega’s in-law Francisco Diaz, but he did not answer the call. They also tried to reach the Presidency, through foreign minister Denis Moncada, but the letters presented were not fruitful, a source, which remains in anonymity, revealed.
Monsignor Rolando Alvarez’s denunciation
Last Thursday Alvarez denounced that the Police —the repressive arm of the Ortega regime— pursued him during the entire day and invaded his relative’s house. For that reason, he began “an indefinite fast with only water and physiological saline solution, until the Police make it known through Church channels that they will respect my family’s privacy,” he said in a video.
On Saturday, the bishop explained that his fasting “was not a hunger strike,” but “an act thought out in the light of the Gospel, an act of salvation. It is not a political matter, but one of faith,” he said. He also recalled that he will not allow his rights to be violated. In response, hundreds of Catholic faithful expressed their support for the priest and joined in days of prayer for his cause. The Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference also expressed its solidarity with Monsignor Alvarez.
Eight days of police siege in Masaya
This Monday also marked eight days since priest Harving Padilla, in charge of the San Juan Bautista Parish of Masaya, has been under police and paramilitary surveillance. The harassment increased since Saturday, when the Police imposed a police cordon around the church and prohibited vehicular and pedestrian traffic, with the exception of people who live in those blocks.
On Sunday, officers prevented worshippers from entering the Catholic temple and one of the officers threatened to arrest the priest. “They threatened me with prison, they made the motions of applying a physical restraint hold, they shouted expletives, vulgarities, profanities, calling me a son of a bitch,” he told Confidencial.
“From their own mouths they said that there will be a time that I will go out, and by not allowing food or medicines, they knew very well that any moment my body will weaken. They said they will wait for me outside. What other sign must I wait for from the Police?”, he asked. The priest, 54 years old and hypertensive, also denounced that people tried to bring him food, but the police prevented them from doing so.
He narrated that he stayed up at night “in case” anything happened. Father Padilla, head of the San Juan Bautista parish for 15 years ago, also faces, since 2018, a smear campaign in pro-government media and social networks, framing him in the murder of a riot policemen during the “Operation Cleanup” that left blood and pain in Nicaragua in the context of the April Rebellion protests.
The regime’s propagandists rely on an alleged audio, where they claim Padilla’s complicity in that case. “That audio is a fabrication of the Sandinistas who want to incriminate me in a situation that I was completely unaware of. I denounce that they are completely manipulating this entire situation, and that this audio is totally manipulated by them… it is an audio that they made,” responded the priest in his defense, who has been a victim of siege at different times.
Ortega’s harassment and attacks against priests and bishops
The regime of Daniel Ortega and his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, have maintained a frontal attack against bishops and priests of the Catholic Church, whom they label as “terrorists” and “coup plotters” since 2018, when they raised their voices against the oppression and massacre that left more than 325 people killed between April and September of that year, and their temples were used as refuge by hundreds of students and other citizens.
During the last four years, the regime also has launched smear campaigns against the Church and its priests, promoting physical and verbal attacks by some pro-Ortega fanatics, as occurred with the desecration of the Managua Cathedral during the funeral mass of poet Ernesto Cardenal in March 2020. They have also threatened several priests with death, forcing them into exile. The auxiliary bishop of Managua, Monsignor Silvio Jose Baez completed three years outside his homeland, this April 23, after leaving at the request of Pope Francis to protect him.
Father Edwin Roman, of the San Miguel Church in Masaya, also suffered with the casualties of the repression in Masaya and had to go into exile for his safety. Likewise, Father Cesar Augusto Gutierrez, from Masaya, had to leave the country due to the harassment of Sandinista fanatics.
Dozens of other priests in different regions of the country have denounced police and paramilitary surveillance, especially during the messages they offer in their homilies. Another form of pressure applied by the regime against priests has been the denial of entry to the country, as occurred with two Franciscan priests in February 2021, and recently, with the expulsion of the Vatican’s top representative in Nicaragua, Apostolic Nuncio Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, in March.