Priest Óscar Benavidez, of the church Espíritu Santo de Mulukukú, in the North Caribbean of Nicaragua, was arrested this Sunday afternoon, August 14, by agents of the National Police, according to local church sources.
Benavidez was taken out of his vehicle and put into a police patrol car with an unknown destination, according to the sources. The priest was leaving a mass at La Asunción parish when he was intercepted by three patrol cars full of riot police.
The arrest of the priest comes in the midst of a series of actions by the Government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo against the Nicaraguan Catholic Church, which includes the police kidnapping of Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez, bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa, together with five priests, three seminarians, and two laypeople. The police accuse them, without evidence, of attempting to organize “violent groups”.
In another development, this Sunday, the National Police prevented two priests from the Matagalpa municipalities of Rancho Grande and El Tuma from traveling to the cathedral of San Pedro, in Matagalpa, to participate in the celebration of the reception of the image of the Virgin of Fatima. One of them was visited in his parish to inform him of the prohibition, and the other was returned on the El Tuma-La Dalia highway.
In addition to these actions, a group of missionaries of the Mother Teresa of Calcutta order was expelled from the country, eight Catholic radio stations were closed, three Catholic channels were excluded from subscription television programming, and a parish was forcibly entered and raided.
Third priest imprisoned
If the arrest is made official, Benavidez would become the third priest imprisoned by the Ortega regime: in June, Manuel Garcia, the parish priest of Nandaime, was imprisoned, followed by Monsignor Leonardo Urbina of Boaco in July.
Garcia was accused of allegedly assaulting a woman and Urbina of allegedly raping a teenage girl. Both have faced trials considered that are considered examples of trials without guarantees by independent experts. Meanwhile, the hate speech from the government against the priests, whom they accuse of conspiring in an alleged “coup”, as they call the demonstrations of 2018, has intensified.
In his homily, this Sunday, the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Monsignor Silvio José Báez, said that “tyrants cannot stand the prophetic word that exposes their wickedness and crimes”.
“The people in power today fear a prophetic Church, they would like to see the Church locked in the sacristy, with her mouth shut and hopefully bowed down before them. When they fail to achieve this, they fill themselves with rage, with aggressive speeches with which they do nothing more than show their own weakness and the darkness of their conscience, but it is all useless,” Baez preached.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff