Daniel Ortega threatens to judge priests critical of his regime in Nicaragua | International

President Daniel Ortega has launched a personal crusade against the Nicaraguan Church. The National Assembly, controlled by the president, approved a report on Wednesday in which it accuses the country’s bishops and priests of participating in an attempted coup and of expressing “hatred and viciousness” against government supporters. In the legislative text, it is recommended to judge the religious who have supported the demonstrations of 2018 —when there was a social outbreak that demanded the end of the mandate of the former Sandinista guerrilla—, and to confiscate the assets of the Church. “They should be tried and their communities or associations thoroughly investigated, since they hid behind the religious” to support the protests, the document recommends.

Ortega has unleashed a brutal hunt against critical voices. This Thursday, the former diplomat and former Diocesan priest Edgar Parrales was sentenced for crimes related to “treason against the country”, who in his youth defended Liberation Theology and supported the Sandinista revolution. A Managua judge found him guilty on April 27 in a trial considered spurious by human rights organizations. In the trial, led by Judge Nadia Tardencilla, the former Nicaraguan ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) during the revolutionary government of the 1980s claimed to be innocent. “I am endorsed by a history of life and commitment in the defense of Nicaragua,” said Parrales, who, at 79 years of age, is the oldest political prisoner.

The Nicaraguan Church has been united against the Ortega regime, which it criticizes for human rights violations. During the 2018 demonstrations, the priests used the temples to protect the demonstrators from the brutal repression of the regime, which left more than 350 dead, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). In this Central American country, the pulpits have become a trench from which priests denounce abuses of power and in their messages call on the population to stand firm against government oppression.

In the report approved on Wednesday, the deputies commit to revising the Penal Code to include in the sentences the religious who they consider participated in promoting the demonstrations or who with their sermons “instill hatred” among the population. The document is based, according to the legislators, on the testimonies of those who they consider victims of those protests, mainly sympathizers of the Government. It does not include the relatives of those killed by the regime, mainly the mothers who have organized since 2018 to demand justice, given that the majority of the dead are young students. “The victims asked that the penalties be more severe and ask for justice for the religious and directors of human rights organizations that were involved in the coup adventure,” the report states. The Nicaraguan Church has not ruled on this document.

Attack on civil organizations

In the same session on Wednesday, the Assembly also banned 50 civil society organizations, considering that they have not been accountable to the Government under the terms of a law that declares them to be “foreign agents.” According to this legislation, all organizations that receive funds from abroad must declare how they are used, under penalty of losing their records. They are organizations that “do not want to be held accountable, they do not want to say where their funds come from, from which countries,” said deputy Filiberto Rodríguez, who chairs the Parliament’s so-called Defense and Governance commission.

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Among the organizations that have been canceled are several that work for the rights of women and the LGBTI population, such as the feminist regional program La Corriente. María Teresa Blandón, director of the organization, has explained to the magazine Confidential that the regime “has no legitimate basis to try to intervene and control the dynamics of civil society organizations” and has affirmed that in Nicaragua we live “in a police state.” With Wednesday’s decision, there are already 200 organizations outlawed in Nicaragua, including half a dozen universities that were the bastion of the 2018 student protests

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