Ortega’s Latest: Freezes Accounts of the Catholic Church

In a few days the accounts of the different parishes were frozen nationwide 

This week the guilty party is… Cartoon by PxMolina / Confidencial

The account freezing began in Estelí, continued in Matagalpa, Managua and throughout the country, without official notification.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo ordered the freezing of the bank accounts of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, gradually and without any official notification, ecclesiastical sources told Confidencial. An order to freeze bank accounts can occur when the transactions of an individual or legal entity are investigated. The Ortega regime has executed it against hundreds of citizens and organizations whose assets it has confiscated.

The freezing of the bank accounts of the dioceses of the Catholic Church in the Nicaraguan financial system has been executed at the national level, confirmed two sources. First, they canceled Church bank accounts in Estelí, and they continued in Matagalpa, Managua and throughout the country.

The information, which began to circulate on social networks and some media outlets on the afternoon of Friday, May 26, was verified by Confidencial with independent sources. They assured that to date there is no official notification from the Government about why they have frozen the accounts. The orders from the government are transmitted to the banks and they execute them.

How it took place

The problem was first identified last weekend in Estelí, when two priests from that Diocese tried to withdraw or transfer a fund that Monsignor Abelardo Mata -now bishop emeritus of Estelí- had managed at the time for the construction of a health project. The bank was unable to carry out the operation, and the two priests were taken by the Police for investigation.

Pastor Eugenio Rodriguez Benavides and Leonardo Guevara Gutierrez were removed by regime officials from their parishes in Jalapa and Estelí, respectively, and transferred to Managua to “a house of formation” of the Catholic Church, while the Police to complete an “investigative” process against them, according to what the Diocese of Estelí reported at the time.

Subsequently, they froze all the accounts of the Diocese of Estelí, managed by the Bishop of Matagalpa Rolando Alvarez, who was arrested in August 2022 and sentenced in February 2023 for raising his voice, although the dictatorship fabricated crimes for him of “conspiracy” and “propagation of false news”. Orteg then took advantage of Alvarez’s link to extend the order to freeze bank accounts to the Diocese of Matagalpa.

In the middle of the week, the freeze was extended to the Archdiocese of Managua, and then to the national level, while the Government has not said what the cause is or what it is investigating.

“What are they investigating? It’s revenge”

The Ortega dictatorship directs a series of attacks against the Catholic Church, which include the dictator’s frequent and virulent speeches against the institution. In a speech at the end of February 2023, Ortega described the Catholic Church as “a mafia” that does not represent the principles of God or Christ. “The bishops, cardinals and Popes are a mafia”, he reiterated.

In addition, he repeatedly accuses them of coup plotters and of being responsible for destabilizing the country. The attacks also include the closure of more than 300 religious organizations between 2022 and so far in 2023, including Caritas Nicaragua, the social arm of the Church.

Due to these attacks, it is presumed that the dictatorship is investigating the alleged “destabilization financing” for which it accuses the Church, which has categorically rejected this alleged “destabilization” and considers that these are acts of “revenge” for maintaining its prophetic voice and advocating for the victims of repression. “What are they investigating? It is clearly revenge,” an ecclesiastical source said in statements to Confidencial, made under anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The sources call on the Government to report the cause of the freezing of bank accounts and to say what they are supposedly investigating.

In addition, they described the concern existing in the different dioceses of the country. They are feeling the immediate impact financial drowning can have on the operations of the Church, including the maintenance of parishes and rectory and episcopal houses, and of Catholic schools that also receive a subsidy from the State, for the payment of some teachers.

Bishops and priests of the Church assisted the victims of the Ortega massacre against the April 2018 Rebellion. The Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference and the apostolic nuncio Waldemar Stalislaw Sommertag (expelled from Nicaragua in March 2023) also mediated in the two failed attempts of National Dialogue.

In addition, bishops and priests have spoken out against the human rights violations and demanded the release of political prisoners. These include more than a dozen priests, six of whom remain convicted and imprisoned -like Bishop Rolando Álvarez- or under police surveillance, like the two priests from Jalapa and Estelí. The last jailed priest is Jaime Iván Montecinos Sauceda, 61, parish priest of the Juan Pablo II church in the municipality of Sébaco, in Matagalpa.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times