The Vatican’s Role in the Partial Prisoner Release in Nicaragua

The Vatican’s representative in Nicaragua, Nuncio Waldemar Sommertag.  Carlos Herrera / Confidencial

Monsignor Sommertag explains the role of his diplomacy and the International Red Cross in the release of 91 of the 160 political prisoners

By Carlos F. Chamorro (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The Vatican’s representative in Nicaragua, Nuncio Waldemar Sommertag, told Confidencial that the release of 91 [of the 160] political prisoners was carried out without making “any negotiation” with the Government.

In brief answers to questions sent by Confidencial, through text messages, the Nuncio indicated that from the beginning of his post in Nicaragua in June 2018, “the Pope and the Holy See have requested the liberation of prisoners.” His efforts, he explained, have consisted in “periodically presenting the issue to the Government’s consideration.”

Jose Adan Aguerri, a member of the Civic Alliance and President of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), assured that the Nuncio has been carrying out an ongoing effort with the government to obtain the freedom of the political prisoners.

“Since September (2019) the government was expected to release 50 political prisoners. It did not happen and since that date the Nuncio has been carrying out efforts. In this case, the release of the 91, there was no negotiation. It was a request from the Vatican,” said Aguerri.

According to the president of Cosep, the Vatican insisted that the government comply with the agreement signed in the second national dialogue regarding the total release of political prisoners. The regime has only honored this agreement halfway and in the prisons at least 65 political prisoners still remain, according to an evaluation done by the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) based on data from the Civic Alliance and the Blue and White National Unity.

The efforts that Sommertag has made with the government, especially with Vice President Rosario Murillo, have taken place in complete secrecy.

The press release of the Ministry of the Interior appreciates the “accompaniment” of the representative of Pope Francis and the International Red Cross, who have “certified this special act,” referring to the implementation of the family coexistence (house arrest) system for 91 political prisoners.

The Red Cross also issued a statement saying that “they provided their exclusively humanitarian services to accompany the release of 91 people deprived of their freedom in Nicaragua.” “In the presence of relevant institutions and the Apostolic Nunciature in Nicaragua, the International Red Cross representatives observed the process by interviewing people or directly with those who were in Managua or at a distance for those who were in places outside the capital,” explained the statement.

Photo: Carlos Herrera / Confidencial

Nuncio Waldemar Sommertag responses to Confidencial

Was there a request from the Holy See to release prisoners?

Waldemar Sommertag: The representative of the Pope and the Holy See is the Nuncio. In this sense, from the beginning of my presence here, I requested the release of prisoners (thank God with many good results!).

Was a list of prisoners presented?


Do you know with what criteria the 91 were selected?

I don’t know.

Who was your official interlocutor?

The Government. The communication channel for diplomats is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Was there any negotiation? Or efforts for the prisoner release?

No negotiation. The issue was presented periodically to the Government for consideration.

Did you participate accompanied by other people or entities?

With the International Red Cross and the Human Rights Ombudsmen’s Office.

Under what conditions were the political prisoners released?

Under the special family coexistence (house arrest) system.
Monsignor Sommertag concluded with this message by Pope Francis for World Peace Day 2020: “To Nicaraguans all my best wishes for a Happy New Year full of hope,” “one in which we keep moving forward and that gives us wings to continue, even when obstacles seem insurmountable.” (Pope Francis, Message for the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2020).

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