Nicaragua police investigating bishop critical of government

·2-min read
Central America Dissent (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Central America Dissent (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Nicaragua’s police said Friday they have begun an investigation against a Roman Catholic bishop who has been an outspoken critic of President Daniel Ortega’s government.

They accused Bishop Rolando Álvarez, leader of the Matagalpa diocese, of allegedly “organizing violent groups” and inciting them “to carry out acts of hate against the population.”

The police statement Friday said the investigation would include a number of people and warned that they would not be allowed to leave their homes while the investigation was carried out.

Álvarez had been inside his residence Thursday when police cordoned the area. Álvarez came out to pray in the street and approach them with an outstretched crucifix. Police blocked his attempt to go to the cathedral Friday so he instead celebrated Mass from home.

The police announced came just hours after first lady and Vice President Rosario Murillo criticized “sins against spirituality” and “the exhibition of hate” in an apparent reference to Álvarez.

Earlier, Wilfredo Navarro, a congressional leader for Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front party, accused Álvarez of creating a media circus in front of police to “again incite violence and disorder.”

Navarro accused Álvarez and others of directing what Ortega and his party consider a failed coup attempt in April 2018. Navarro said the churches were “caves of delinquents and murderers” and that Álvarez is “transforming the church again into bases where they stockpile weapons and plan violence.”

He warned that Álvarez was not above the law.

The comments from Navarro and Murillo seemed to lay the groundwork for the police announcement late Friday of an investigation.

In his homily Friday, Álvarez said that he and others confined to his residence “have happiness in our hearts, interior strength and peace for our life.” Neither church leadership in Nicaragua nor the Vatican have commented on the situation this week.

This week, Ortega’s government closed eight radio stations and a television station in Matagalpa province north of Managua. Seven of the radio stations were run by the church.