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The violent arrest of Father Enrique Martínez Gamboa

"They are taking me by force!" the priest shouted when he was arrested. Sources close to him denounce that he was taken in his underwear.

Redacción Confidencial

19 de octubre 2022


At about five o'clock in the afternoon last Thursday, October 13, a patrol of riot police forcibly entered the house of the priest Enrique Martínez Gamboa, 64 years old. The priest was alone in his house, and when he saw that the riot police had broken down the fence of the property, he ran to take refuge in his room.

The police officers violently entered the house and broke down the door of the room where Father Martínez had secluded himself.

"They came to the room where he was and started kicking the door. They broke down the door, broke it, beat him and pushed him out, and put him in the van. He called them 'murderous police'.  He also shouted several times: 'Long live Christ the King!', 'They are taking me by force!'", sources close to the priest’s family confided to CONFIDENCIAL, affirming that the officials did not show an arrest warrant nor did they explain the reasons for the detention.

The sources said there were boot prints on the door where the riot police had kicked it open. 

They also recounted that just minutes before the riot police carried out the operation, men dressed in civilian clothing on motorcycles were driving around the area where Martínez lives. Then a pickup truck with riot police showed up and entered the Altos de San Pedro subdivision on Carretera Sur, where the priest lives.

Martínez had sensed that he could be arrested at any moment, given the escalation of repression by the Ortega regime against the Catholic Church which in the last six months has imprisoned 11 clergy members, including Bishop Rolando Álvarez. Martínez had also previously been harassed by the National Police. "On several occasions he had been followed, but they had never done anything to him," the sources explained.

The parishioners who listened to Father Martínez’ homilies also feared reprisals against him, because of his prophetic voice. In 2018, he made that voice heard during the massive civic protests, when he said at the May 30th Mothers’ Day march:

"The majority of Nicaraguans have clean hearts, our hands are not stained with blood as others’ hands are. Do not back down, do not back down, do not back down. Long live Nicaragua! Long live the April 19 Mothers of the Fallen! Long live decent doctors and journalists!"

Priest detained "in his underwear"

The day Martínez was violently arrested, he was transferred to the Auxiliary Judicial Complex, known as El Chipote. His family went to ask about him, but the response was that “they could not tell them anything".

The El Chipote authorities did accept some supplies his family brought for him: three days' worth of water and two pairs of underwear. His family members also brought him sheets, short-sleeved T-shirts and compression socks that the priest must wear due to his circulation problems, but the authorities did not accept any of these items.

"He has been without socks all these days that he has been in jail, and they did not accept the T-shirts or sheets. He is practically naked, only in underpants. It is a way of torturing him, because for someone who is used to always being dressed, always covered, being half naked in this situation hits him hard psychologically," the sources say.

Martínez has chronic illnesses. He suffers from diabetes, hypertension and kidney problems. He also has circulation problems. A few years ago, he suffered from thrombosis --a blood clot--, which worsened his health and for which "he was hospitalized on the verge of death", according to the sources. This means he must wear compression stockings to prevent the formation of new clots that could put his life at risk again: if a clot travels to areas of the body such as the brain, it could kill him. 

"He takes about ten pills a day because he has several illnesses. Every two weeks they send him for tests and he is evaluated by the internist. In fact, on the day he was detained he was due to get lab work done. We don't know if he has had a medical consult inside. We don't know how his health is," they explain.

The priest Enrique Martínez Gamboa belongs to the Diocese of León, but he was carrying out his ministry in Managua, and he occasionally celebrated mass at the Santa Marta Church, according to religious sources. He was also a chaplain at La Salle High School.

The Nicaraguan dictatorship has arrested and imprisoned eleven clergy since the July, when it kicked off a new chapter of direct attacks against the Catholic Church. The first was the priest Manuel García Rodríguez, condemned for allegedly raping a woman.

This week the regime scheduled oral and public hearings on December 1st against three priests, a deacon, two seminarians and a cameraman who were taken by police, along with Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez, at the Curia of Matagalpa over the course of two weeks in August.


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


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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.