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Dictator Daniel Ortega Makes Public Easter Processions Illegal in Nicaragua 

Ambassador Mark Green

By order of Dictator Daniel Ortega, public Easter processions are now illegal in Nicaragua.

Nearly half of all Nicaraguans are Catholic, and according to the LatinoBarometer, the Catholic Church itself is the single most trusted institution in the country.

Over the years, members of the Church—including priests and bishops—have spoken out on behalf of the poor in Nicaragua. In fact, when Ortega first gained power in the 1980s, a number of priests broke with official Vatican policy and supported his rise. But in recent years, as the Ortega regime has amassed and consolidated more and more power, and used it to squelch political dissent and crack down on human rights and civil liberties, the Church has increasingly spoken out against Ortega’s repressive policies.

Things boiled over in early 2018, when Ortega responded to largely peaceful protests by students and others with brutal force. More than 350 protestors were killed. Some Catholic bishops tried to protect the protestors by offering them asylum in their churches. Other church leaders attempted to act as mediators in the crisis—a move which Ortega viewed as a direct threat to his leadership and authority. In response, priests were bloodied by beatings and churches were desecrated. Since then, according to the Vatican News, the Ortega regime has carried out nearly 400 attacks against the Church and its adherents, ranging from defacing church buildings to attacks and arrests. The regime even expelled Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity and declared the Vatican’s representative to Nicaragua Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag persona non grata.

This year has only brought even tougher actions from Ortega. He ordered the deportation of 222 political prisoners and simultaneously stripped them of their citizenship. When church leader Bishop Rolando Álvarez refused to follow Ortega’s deportation order, an infuriated Ortega had the Bishop charged with treason and sentenced to 26 years in prison.

In early March, Ortega proposed suspending relations with the Vatican and closed Nicaragua’s embassy in Rome. This forced the Holy See to close its embassy in Managua. And now Ortega has banned public vigils for the Way of the Cross and Easter.

This blog was compiled with the assistance of Carlotta Murrin.

About the Author

Ambassador Mark Green

Ambassador Mark A. Green

President & CEO, Wilson Center
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