Exile and banishment are two maneuvers that the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo has prescribed to priests of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua in recent years, as part of the repressive wave against the clergy.
The third installment of the report “Nicaragua: A Persecuted Church?”, presented by the lawyer and researcher on religious issues, Martha Patricia Molinapoints out that at least 81 religious and nuns they have been exiled, exiled, expelled or prohibited from entering the national territory.
The lawyer explained to Article 66 that “the dictatorship is attacking the Catholic Church from all sides and one way of persecution is against religious men, women, seminarians and lay people, with the aim of ending the process of evangelization that the Church has catholic”.
He also indicated that the majority of nuns of other nationalities have had to leave Nicaragua because the Directorate of Migration and Aliens did not renew their permission to stay in the country. «They have been forced to leave; It is not that they leave of their own free will, but that the dictatorship forces them to leave,” Molina stressed.
Regarding the attacks on the Catholic Church, the report indicates that in the last five years —from 2018 to 2023— there have been 529 attacks by the Nicaraguan regime.
«The dictatorship – of Daniel Ortega – does not stop religious persecution because the prophetic voice emanating from priests and bishops, through the gospel, hinders its tyrannical plans. They simply want to annihilate the Catholic Church,” stressed Martha Patricia Molina.
forced into exile
The list of priests, who have had to go into exile to protect their lives, is headed by Monsignor Silvio Jose Baez, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Managua.
In 2019, the prelate had to leave the country, after the then United States ambassador to Nicaragua, Laura Dogu, confirmed death threats against him.
Although the Episcopal Conference reported at that time that the bishop had been called by Pope Francis to Rome, ecclesiastical sources later revealed that he was actually part of the request made by the Government to the Holy See, through the Apostolic Nunciature. Báez’s departure was a forced exile.
On February 15, 2023, the Nicaraguan dictatorship stripped Báez of his nationality and confiscated his property, accusing him of “treason.” Despite the attack against him, the Catholic hierarch continues to demand justice and freedom for Nicaragua, as well as the demand that Monsignor Rolando Álvarez be released.
Another of the religious who decided to go into exile was Father edwing romanwho on August 3, 2021 decided not to return to Nicaragua from the United States after direct threats from the Vice President of Nicaragua, Rosario Murillo.
The priest said at the time that after making the trip to the North American country to “celebrate a baptism,” the dictatorship took the opportunity to intensify the warnings against him, forcing him not to return to the country.
The dictatorship also denied entry to Nicaragua to father William Blandon, parish priest of the Santa Lucía Church, in Boaco, who was preparing to return to Nicaragua in September 2022, after making a trip to Israel and stopping at the Miami airport.
In an interview with this means of communication, the priest stated that the refusal of the Ortega regime is due to the religious persecution that exists in the country.
Among the last priests who decided to go into exile in 2023, are the priests Luis Masis Velasquez and Bayardo Antonio Rugama, both belonging to the Diocese of Bluefields. They left their parishes to avoid being imprisoned, denounced the parishioners of their communities.
Although the Diocese of Bluefields, whose headquarters are located in the South Caribbean, has not made the departure of both priests official, the parishioners denounced to independent media that the two priests were constantly harassed by regime operatives, who harassed them and threatened them with jail. in order to silence them.
In addition to the forced exile against priests, the dictatorship exiled other religious, whom it kept kidnapped in the Directorate of Judicial Assistance, in Managua, known as “El Nuevo Chipote”, accused of “treason against the homeland.”
The religious that the dictatorship kept imprisoned for more than six months and then deported, were the first and second vicars of the Cathedral of San Pedro, in Matagalpa, Jose Luis Diaz and Sadiel Eugarrios, respectively; as well as the priests Ramiro Tijerino—Rector of the John Paul II University—and Father Raul Vega Gonzalez.
The other religious are the seminarians Darvin Leiva and Melkin Rye Sequeiralike the cameraman Sergio Cardenas, those who remained with Monsignor Álvarez in the Episcopal Curia of Matagalpa, since August 4. All of these were exiled on February 9, in a group of 222 former political prisoners who were expelled on a plane to the United States.
In addition, the dictatorship confiscated their assets, and erased them from the Civil Registry. The same situation suffered by Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, who in addition to being imprisoned and sentenced to 26 years in prison, was stripped of his nationality.
For the journalist on religious issues Israel González, the attack against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua is due to the fact that the religious institution was “the only one that continued to speak about human rights and the authoritarianism of the government.”
He added that the Church is the only institution that can stand up to “this enormous state and repressive power that is in the hands of the Ortega and Murillo family, for this reason the attack is more virulent, which is not comparable to attacks against other organizations.”
To date, the dictatorship has not shown any sign of wanting to release the religious that it still holds prisoner, among whom are, in addition to Monsignor Álvarez, the priest Manuel Salvador Garcia, parish priest of the Jesús de Nazareno church, in the municipality of Nandaime, and monsignor Leonardo Urbina Rodriguez, parish priest of the Church of Perpetual Help, in Boaco.
The priest is also deprived of liberty Jaime Montesinoparish priest of the San Juan Pablo Segundo church, in Villa Chagüitillo, in the municipality of Sébaco, Diocese of Matagalpa, accused of undermining national integrity.
With the arrest of Father Montesinos, the Nicaraguan dictatorship raises the number of kidnapped religious to four. Besides the priests Pastor Eugenio Rodriguez Benavides and Leonardo Guevara Gutierrez, those he captured, transferred them to Managua and subjected them to an “investigation” for the management of the extinct Cáritas, but then released “under investigation” and now they remain in a prison seminar.