Nicaragua proposes suspension of relations with the Vatican

The Nicaraguan government reported on Sunday that it had proposed suspending its diplomatic relationship with the Vatican, in a measure that comes three days after Pope Francis compared the government of Daniel Ortega to “the communist dictatorship of 1917 or the Hitlerite dictatorship of 1935.” .

In a statement, the Central American country’s Foreign Ministry responded to press reports that earlier spoke of an alleged diplomatic “rupture” with the Holy See, amid an atmosphere of tension between the Sandinista administration and the local Catholic Church.

“Between the Vatican State and the Republic of Nicaragua, a suspension of diplomatic relations has been proposed,” said the press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The statement did not disclose the reasons for the move.

Vatican officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because there has been no official announcement, said late Sunday that there was a request from Nicaragua to close diplomatic missions on each side.

In an interview with the Argentine news portal Infobae on Thursday, Pope Francis questioned the Ortega government, which last month sentenced Bishop Rolando Álvarez, one of the most critical Catholic voices, to 26 years in prison. Ortega has even referred to the Catholic Church as “a mafia” and “the perfect dictatorship.”

“I have no choice but to think about an imbalance in the person who leads (Daniel Ortega). There we have a bishop in prison, a very serious man, very capable. He wanted to give his testimony and did not accept exile, ”said the pope in the interview.

“It is something that is outside of what we are experiencing, it is as if it were (…) communist dictatorships of 17 or Hitlerian dictatorships of 1935. They are a type of rude dictatorships,” he added.

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Francisco’s statement was celebrated by opponents of Ortega in Nicaragua, who in recent years had been demanding that the Supreme Pontiff take a more critical position towards the Nicaraguan government.

Exactly one year ago, the Managua government expelled the apostolic nuncio Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, who had advocated for the release of hundreds of imprisoned opponents in 2018 and 2019. The Holy See expressed its “surprise and pain” at the measure and said that the nuncio was ordered “to leave the country immediately.”

Last August, the Nicaraguan police imposed a siege of more than two weeks around the Episcopal Curia of Matagalpa (north), holding Bishop Álvarez captive along with three priests and four collaborators, who were later arrested and sentenced for alleged “conspiracy ”.

On February 9, the government deported 222 “political prisoners,” including Álvarez’s collaborators, to the United States. The bishop refused to board the plane, after which he was sentenced to 26 years in prison and locked up in the Modelo prison, a prison where thousands of common criminals are held.

President Ortega confirmed the above in a speech in which he called the 53-year-old priest “superb”, “insane” and “energúmeno”, for refusing to be exiled.

The Sandinista president has accused the Catholic bishops of supporting the opposition during the 2018 social protests, which the Managua government described as “a failed coup” to destabilize Ortega.

The protests were violently put down by the police and government-affiliated paramilitaries, leaving 355 dead, more than 2,000 injured, 1,600 detained at various times, and at least 100,000 exiled, according to human rights organizations.

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