Managua, Nicaragua: Nicaraguan bishop and regime critic Rolando Alvarez was detained on Friday for “destabilizing and provocative” activities. Police said his official residence in Matagalpa, central Nicaragua, was under siege for two weeks. Alvarez was then taken Friday by police to Managua, about 130 kilometers away. Supporters said Alvarez was taken “violently” to an unknown location and the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) expressed their concerns.

In a tweet tagged #SOS, the Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) said, “National police broke into our Matagalpa diocese residence and took the bishop away.” It said this happened at 3 a.m. at a church residence in Matagalpa where Alvarez and a group of priests and laity had been under siege by police since August 4.

Vilma Nunez of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) told AFP that the police “abducted[the bishop]violently” and did not tell anyone where he was taken. No. Hours later, the National Police said in a statement that Alvarez had been brought to Managua.

“The bishop is under house arrest in the capital,” he said, without giving a location. “He was able to meet his family this morning,” he added. Eight of him, including five of his priests who were trapped with Alvarez, were taken with him to Managua, all under investigation, according to CELAM.

The church then said Alvarez was detained in his “family home” and Cardinal Lepoldo Brenes was allowed to visit him. Brenes reported that the bishop’s “physical condition deteriorated” but that he was “strong in spirit,” the Archdiocese of Managua said in a statement. According to Senida, the rest of his eight were in El Chipote Prison.

“very worried”

Police said Alvarez’s detention was a “public order” operation necessitated by the bishop’s “destabilizing and provocative activities.” “We are deeply concerned by the serious closure of democratic and civic space in Nicaragua and recent actions against civil society organizations, including the Catholic Church,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“Reports of a raid on the residence of the Catholic bishop of Matagalpa only add to these concerns,” he said. Nicaragua’s Catholic Church has stepped up government pressure after a 2018 crackdown on opposition protests killed hundreds.

President Daniel Ortega says the protests are part of a Washington-backed opposition plot to overthrow him. He accused the bishop of collusion and claimed the protesters used the church building as “barracks.” Alvarez himself has been accused by the authorities of inciting violence to destabilize the Central American country. He had his home under siege after he criticized the closure of church radio stations and news channels.

A 76-year-old former guerrilla, Ortega has ruled Nicaragua since 2007 and has been reelected three times in a row. The final vote for him took place in November 2021, with Ortega’s main rival in jail along with dozens of other government opponents and critics.

According to the European Union, there are more than 180 “political prisoners” in Nicaragua. In the first half of 2022, Nicaraguan authorities closed her more than 1,200 civil society organizations, Brock said. The Vatican announced that Nicaragua expelled its ambassador to the country in March.

Last week, Cenidh said another Nicaraguan priest, Oscar Benavidez, was “taken out of his car and taken in a police car to an unknown destination.” Former Nicaraguan ambassador to the Organization of American States, Arturo McFields, tweeted on Friday that “the dictatorship has kidnapped Roland Alvarez…the hellish pursuit of the church continues.” – AFP

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