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37 countries demand freedom for Bishop Rolando Álvarez

"It is not even known if the bishop is still alive," denounces the International Freedom of Belief Alliance representative

Monsignor Rolando Alvarez

Monsignor Rolando Álvarez during the visit to the La Modelo prison system.

Octavio Enríquez

4 de julio 2023


The International Freedom of Belief Alliance (IFBA), made up of 37 countries including the United States, Brazil, Colombia, Norway, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, demanded the release of Rolando Álvarez, the bishop of Matagalpa and apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Estelí, who was sentenced to 26 years and four months in prison on February 10, 2023.

According to a statement by IFBA representative Fiona Bruce of the United Kingdom, the Catholic cleric has been held incommunicado since the visit in March by family members in the Jorge Navarro Prison, known as La Modelo, in Managua.

"Government authorities monitored and televised the entire visit, including an interview with the bishop. Other than that, the government has kept the bishop incommunicado, without access to his family or his lawyer. Since his family's visit in March, the authorities have not allowed any further visits and have provided no further information about Bishop Álvarez's well-being. It is not even known if the bishop is still alive," says the statement, published on the U.S. State Department's website.

According to its website, the IFBA is composed of 37 countries: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Estonia, Gambia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Kosovo and Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Togo, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In addition, there is a group of five “friends of” countries: Canada, Guyana, Japan, South Korea and Sweden. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief participates as an observer.

The statement by the Alliance is dated June 28, 2023, one day after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, headquartered in Costa Rica, demanded the immediate liberation of Álvarez, after considering that the risk to the bishop continues to increase with the passage of time.

Bruce also pointed out, on behalf of the IFBA, that the Nicaraguan executive branch has not implemented the recommendations set forth by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

“I strongly urge the Nicaraguan authorities to release Bishop Álvarez immediately and unconditionally, and to drop all charges against him so that he can freely return to his work," Bruce said, expressing her grave concern about the persecution against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua.

Ortega's tenacious persecution

The Nicaraguan regime has intensified its persecution against the Catholic Church since 2018, when it accused the bishops, without evidence, of trying to carry out a coup d'état. The reality is that the dictatorship repressed thousands of protesters in the streets, killing 355 and wounding more than 2,000 between April 2018 and July 2019. Religious groups opened their churches to receive the victims of the repression, thus becoming targets of the dictatorship as well.

At present, Álvarez is the only imprisoned bishop. Auxiliary bishop Silvio Baez has been in exile since 2019, on the advice of Pope Francis after Baez received threats from Sandinista fanatics. But Ortega keeps other priests in jail, accuses the Church of committing money laundering, has closed Catholic radio stations, and his police have desecrated temples. He also expelled the apostolic nuncio, Waldemar Sommertag, in March 2022.

Abuses have continued to increase, with confiscations of religious schools and the banishment of priests and nuns. Ortega's discourse has hardened to the point of calling priests "sons of the devil". On March 10, 2023, Pope Francis described the Nicaraguan regime as a "Hitlerian dictatorship" in an interview with Infobae.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff.


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Octavio Enríquez

Octavio Enríquez

Periodista nicaragüense, exiliado. Comenzó su carrera en el año 2000, cuando todavía era estudiante. Por sus destacadas investigaciones periodísticas ha ganado el Premio Ortega y Gasset, el Premio Internacional de Periodismo Rey de España, el Premio a la Excelencia de la Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa, y el Premio Latinoamericano de Periodismo de Investigación del Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS).