More than 150 political leaders in Nicaragua are currently kept in prison at the direct order of Daniel Ortega, (including Bishop Rolando Álvarez.) Last August 19 marked the first-year anniversary since Ortega’s police stormed Matagalpa’s Curia, irregularly arresting Álvarez, and eventually sentencing him to 26 years in prison. Now, three more priests have been irregularly detained, in what some Human Rights activists in Nicaragua have deemed a Kristallnachtof sorts.
Local Nicaraguan press report that three more priests have been “kidnapped” by police officers accompanied by paramilitary troops riding in unidentified trucks. The night of October 1, Fr. Cristóbal Gadel (the parish priest from Our Lady of Mercy church, in Jinotega) was detained by a mixed group of policemen and non-uniformed paramilitary Sandinista troops. The Nicaraguan human rights activist and lawyer Martha Molina told La Prensa de Nicaragua (a local newspaper) that Fr. Gadel had denounced Ortega’s persecution of the Catholic Church since 2019.
On that same night, the Nicaraguan regime also arrested Fr. Iván Centeno (the parish priest at the Immaculate Conception church in Jalapa) and Fr. Julio Ricardo Norori (the parish priest of the Saint John Evangelist church in San Juan del Río Coco).
Local sources told La Prensa that detentions were not made by police officers, but by irregular paramilitary troopers on unidentified Toyota Hilux trucks. It is believed they were taken to the capital city of Nicaragua, Managua.
Why the Church?
A series of reports on the Catholic Church in Nicaragua by exiled civil rights lawyer and researcher Martha Patricia Molina documented 529 attacks over the past five years — 90 so far this year.
The Church is being systematically targeted because it is “the last [independent] bastion left in Nicaragua.”
The regime, Molina explains, “took the media, the institutions, the political parties and the NGOs. So the only space left is the Church.” She said the government “intends to eradicate the Church completely, so that the prophetic voice of the gospel is not heard by the Nicaraguan people.”