Nicaragua’s Bishops: “Let every citizen decide and act”

“Voting is a right. The decision to vote or not to vote should be made by each person according to the dictates of their inner conscience,” declares the Episcopal Conference.

By Arlen Cerda  (Confidencial)

Jorge Solarzano (r), bishop of Granada and Secretary of the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference and Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes. Photo: Carlos Herrera/Confidencial
Jorge Solarzano (r), bishop of Granada and Secretary of the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference and Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes. Photo: Carlos Herrera/Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua last Monday issued a pronouncement on the electoral process, indicating that “given the situations created by irregular decisions regarding the next elections, decisions that have spawned very diverse postures and reactions in the population,” they wish to shine some light on this “historic moment” for the country from the perspective of their faith and as pastors of the Church.

The bishops avoided a specific call to vote and recognized the population’s right not to do so, then opted for exhorting each Nicaraguan citizen to “decide and act according to the dictates of their inner conscience, freely and without fear of any type of outside coercion”.

“Each person should engage in serious reflection in order to decide what they consider most just and convenient for the present and future of the country,” the bishops indicated in a pastoral message signed by the ten bishops and read by Monsignor Jorge Solórzano, Conference secretary and bishop of the city of Granada, accompanied by Conference president, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, archbishop of Managua.

In the national elections planned for November 6th, Daniel Ortega is seeking his third consecutive presidential term, together with his wife and vice presidential candidate Rosario Murillo.  During the lead-up to the campaign, the opposing National Coalition for Democracy has been excluded from the ballot, and the right to independent national and international observation has been curtailed.

Does ones option enrich the strengthening of a democratic and pluralistic system?

This same Monday, speaking before the diplomatic corps, the government denied that the electoral race was being conducted without transparency, competition or pluralism.  Nevertheless, the opposition cites a lack of conditions for the process and terms it a “farce.” They’ve called on the population to exercise their right to abstain as a demonstration of their rejection of the electoral system.

“Voting is a right.  The decision to vote or not to vote or that of voting for a particular option should be assumed by each person from the interior of their conscience.  In the light of the Gospel and of the church’s social doctrine, a Catholic should make a conscious decision whether the option they select is consistent with the construction of a more just society, in favor of the common good of all the people, and enriches the strengthening of a democratic and pluralistic political system in the country,” indicated the pastoral message.

In mid-June, in the days following the exclusion of the opposition from the elections, the Episcopal Conference issued a pronouncement deploring “any intent to create the conditions to impose a single party regime.”

“Maintaining hope doesn’t mean standing with folded arms”

The bishops took advantage of the occasion to recall that “In moments of crisis and tension it’s easy to give in to the temptation for violence,” and called on people “to act peacefully, respecting each person’s legitimate options and avoiding anything that threatens the physical and moral integrity of others. Peace is a gift of God, but also the fruit of justice and of human commitment.”

Similarly, they encouraged people to “never lose hope, especially in the darkest and most adverse moments.” Despite this, they noted that “having hope doesn’t mean standing with your arms folded.  It’s not resigning yourself, thinking that reality can’t be better, nor is it remaining indifferent, thinking we can do nothing to improve it.”

The Episcopal Conference asked every parish to organize twenty-four hour fast and prayer sessions beginning next October 6th at 6 pm.

Silence on immigration blockade of religious missionaries

Since the end of last year, the government has blocked the entry of Cuban, African and Haitian migrants who wish to cross through the country en route to the United States.  This immigration blockade has now also been extended to Catholic and Protestant missionaries.

The Interior Ministry (Gobernación) informed representatives from the Protestant churches that any missionary who wishes to travel to Nicaragua must be reported in advance, giving details of the objectives of their visit, and wait for their entry to be approved.

This Friday, Immigration denied entry to Catholic missionaries Eduardo Fernández and Ricardo Díaz, who were coming to offer a post-graduate course in Theology in the Jinotega diocese.  Bishop Enrique Herrera criticized the blockade placed on the missionaries.  Nonetheless, the Episcopal Conference made no reference to this situation in their pastoral message, and didn’t respond to any question from the media.