A source close to the 57-year-old priest’s family stated he was arrested in his Nandaime home by Ortega’s Police.
HAVANA TIMES – Father Manuel Salvador Garcia of the Jesus of Nazarene Church in Nandaime, a small town south of Granada in Nicaragua, was arrested on June 1, by the Nicaraguan Police, who serve the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. The information was offered confidentially to La Prensa by a source close to the priest’s family.
In the last few days, the priest has been victim of a “smear campaign” on the part of the official government media. These media outlets posted videos in which he supposedly attacked an unidentified woman. When questioned by those recording him, he reacted violently, waving a machete and daring them to enter the Catholic Church.
“They hit him”
The source close to the priest’s family stated that he had then opted to go to his family’s home in Carazo department, which is where he was detained by the police.
“Police agents and members of the riot squads surrounded the house and took him away with a lot of violence. They hit him, as if he were the latest criminal. At present, the family doesn’t know where he is,” the source stated. Later Confidencial reported that two sources close to the Catholic Church said the priest was taken to the infamous El Chipote jail and interrogation center.
The priest is 57 and suffers from diabetes. He also takes medication for chronic neuropathy, said relatives.
On June 1, La Prensa attempted to contact the Granada archdiocese to learn the Church’s version. However, as of the present, we’ve received no response.
The source offering information about the priest’s detention, asked to remain anonymous for their protection. They consider all this a political reprisal, since Father Manuel Salvador Garcia has been critical of the Ortega-Murillo government after Nicaragua’s sociopolitical crisis began in 2018.
The source explained that the priest served as curate in the San Pedro the Apostol Parish in Diria, another town in the Granada department. There, they claim, he acquired a lot of enemies for being a critical voice.
In 2018, following the government’s violent operation “clean-up”, he was the victim of a brutal attack by hooded figures, believed to be sympathizers of the Ortega-Murillo regime. The attack was so fierce that it almost cost him his left eye.
The source maintained that the priest’s aggressive response, as seen in the video that was supposedly recorded late on May 30, 2022, was because those recording him had previously been threatening him.
Several residents of Nandaime offered testimony, all under condition of not being identified. They believe that the videos circulating on social media and in the official channels are part of a “smear” campaign against Father Manuel Salvador Garcia.
The videos were supposedly recorded around 11 pm on May 30, but they weren’t posted on social media until the next day. They were then immediately shown over all the official channels, including Channel 2, Channel 13, Channel 8, and the main government website El 19 digital.
In a first video, which has not been shown by the government’s propaganda apparatus, a person is proposing that they “stone” the religious figure. In that moment, Father Manuel can be seen inside the parish residence with a machete in his hand, waving it as a sign he’s prepared to defend himself.
“They didn’t post that video, because it doesn’t suit them to show the part where they say: “let’s stone him”, declared one Nandaime citizen.
According to her, neighbors who witnessed the incident say that the Father received a visit from a married couple that night. “The couple had a fight behind the church. They were arguing very loudly, and when the priest heard, he came out. At that point, “those hanging around” the park saw him and assumed it was [the priest] who was fighting, when it was actually the husband who attacked the woman,” the Nandaime native stated.
Up until now, the identity of that couple is unknown.
In a second video being posted by the dictatorship’s propaganda outlets, the men continue insulting the religious figure. The priest, machete in hand, then confronts one of them, asking what does he know about the problems that exist among families, while he dares them to come in to the religious house of worship.
According to yet a third video, the police then arrived at the church. Father Manuel Salvador Garcia questioned their presence and asserted that in the church, he was in charge.
According to yet another town citizen, the Father had refused to attend a meeting he was invited to at the Nandaime Mayor’s office, and that refusal had perpetrated “that media circus”.
Witnesses in the video are known Ortega supporters
The men who recorded the video and provoked the priest on the night of May 30, appeared in yet another video posted on the official media outlet “JP+”.
The first man to appear in in the video has been identified as Lesther Chavarria, known in Nandaime under the nickname of “Papayo”, also the nickname of his deceased father. He’s a recognized Sandinista supporter in the municipality, according to one of the anonymous sources.
The other person in the video is Cristian Torres, also a recognized Sandinista, who isn’t even a Catholic, but a Protestant, one of the sources stated.
According to the version of the two men in the video, around 11 pm on May 30 they heard a young woman calling for help. She was being chased by Father Garcia, who was holding a knife. “The young girl called for us in tears and asked us to help her and call the police, because the Father had hurt her mother’s eye,” Chavarria states in this official video. According to the related media story, when the police arrived at the church, the women were inside, but the priest wouldn’t let anyone in.