Retired General Humberto Ortega Saavedra, former head of the Nicaraguan Army, advised his younger brother, the dictator Daniel Ortega, to correct the situation of imprisonment and sentence against Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez, Bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa, sent to a maximum security cell in La Modelo prisonafter he refused to be exiled in the United States.
“This (Álvarez’s situation) has to be corrected by the government because it is not convenient for it to deepen a clash with the sentiment of all Christians in Nicaragua and Latin America, which is very Christian and very Catholic,” said the former Sandinista commander on the program Oppenheimer Presentsfrom the international network CNN en Español and directed by the journalist Andrés Oppenheimer.
On Thursday, February 9, the dictator explained that he had included the religious man on the list of 222 political prisoners released and exiled to the United States, but the Catholic leader rejected the offer, which the dictator described as an act of “arrogance.”
The next day, Álvarez was sentenced to 26 years and four months in prison. in a process considered by experts as a “criminal action”. In addition, the religious leader was stripped of his nationality, he was fined 58,000 córdobas –equivalent to $1,555 dollars– and permanently disqualified from public and popularly elected office, according to the resolution of the judiciary.
The former head of the Armed Forces since its foundation, in 1979, until 1995, stressed that the imprisonment and conviction of the bishop has brought “great repercussions.” “The Pope (Francis) advocated directly for Álvarezand from different parts of the world they are calling for a (wave of) solidarity for the situation of Álvarez,” he said.
“Bishop Álvarez is very relevant here in Nicaragua, I have closely followed his speech and in general I consider that he is in line with the liberties that one has to have and tolerate in a democratic government,” commented the retired general.
Regarding the political impact of the Álvarez issue, the former military chief stated that “he is already having it, because the government really did not want him to stay in Nicaragua.”
“That is why the government responded in a hasty manner, and trampling the law, the methodology, the technical procedures, because they condemn him after they had already put him in La Modelo,” he stressed.
Criticism towards his younger brother
In the framework of the 2018 crisis, the retired general positioned himself in favor of bringing forward the 2021 elections, and the dismantling of the paramilitaries, to find a way out of the situation in the country.
In response, President Ortega accused his younger brother of being a pawn of the “oligarchy” and the “empire,” alluding to big business and the United States.
In addition, the Sandinista leader has branded the former military chief a “traitor” and a “seller of the country”, and has accused him of “defending terrorists”, which is how he refers to opponents of his government.
The last time Humberto criticized Daniel in public was after his death. of the historic Sandinista combatant Hugo Torres, who died in police custody in February 2022 due to an “illness” not yet specified by the authorities.
In a opinion article published in February 2022 in the newspaper La Prensa, Humberto pointed out that Torres’ death was due to the “cruel confinement” to which he was exposed in the cells of El Chipote. In addition, he highlighted the milestones that the retired brigadier general achieved as a guerrilla, including the operation that freed several political prisoners from the Anastasio Somoza dictatorship in 1974, including Daniel Ortega.
After four years without seeing each other in person, the Ortega Saavedra brothers met at Humberto’s house, the night of last December 23. The Nicaraguan Executive assured that Daniel visited his relative because he “has suffered very serious health problems, with consequent weaknesses and acute collateral illnesses.” However, sources linked to Humberto’s family were surprised by the statement from the Presidency, because although he has had “conditions typical of his age” they ruled out that he is “in a serious state of health.”