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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Senator calls on Nicaraguan government to stop religious persecution

President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua participates in a multilateral meeting of SICA, the Central American Integration System, in Panama City, April 10, 2015. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

By The Star Staff

New Progressive Party Sen. Keren Riquelme Cabrera called on the government of Nicaragua on Tuesday to cease and desist its persecution against religious freedom and the human rights of its citizens.

The at-large senator filed Resolution 664 to express the solidarity and closeness of the Puerto Rico Senate with its Nicaraguan brothers and sisters, and with the Catholic and Evangelical churches of the Central American country, and to request that the government of Nicaragua to cease and desist from its persecution against religious freedom.

“What our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters are experiencing is persecution by a dictatorial regime,” said Riquelme, who authored the measure. “One of the most persecuted sectors are faith-based organizations. Over the past few years we have seen how the authorities of this oppressive regime have kidnapped a bishop, arrested several priests, expelled missionaries, and implemented serious restrictions on religious freedom. We call on the government of [president] Daniel Ortega to stop this abusive and oppressive practice.”

In August 2022, members of the diocese of Siuna denounced the detention of Father Óscar Benavidez, the parish priest of the Holy Spirit Mulukukú Parish.

“We cannot remain silent when violent and callous persecution has been unleashed by the government against dissident groups, including but not limited to churches, civic groups and opponents of the Nicaraguan dictatorial regime,” the senator added.

The Commission on International Religious Freedom revealed in a detailed report that in March the Ortega regime expelled the papal nuncio, the Vatican’s top diplomat in the country, Monsignor Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, for “inexplicable reasons.”

Meanwhile, a judge sentenced one priest to more than four years in prison on “trumped-up charges and authorities arrested another on suspicious grounds.”

Other examples, Riquelme said, are the expulsion of the nuns of Mother Teresa of Calcutta whose only “crime” was to devote themselves to the care of the poorest and most needy, the order for the dissolution of 100 non-governmental organizations with no relation to the government, the murder of an evangelical pastor, the closure of radio stations and religious media, the arbitrary prohibition of public religious demonstrations and the persecution of leaders from all walks of life.

At this time, the Nicaraguan government is also keeping the Bishop of Matagalpa, Msgr. Rolando Álvarez, and a group of priests under house arrest, the senator said.

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