Why We Must Defend Nicaragua’s Bishops

Ortega tries to blame the Catholic Church for his own crimes, but the whole country knows who are the murderers, coup promoters and rapists.

By Carlos F. Chamorro  (Confidencial)

A giant Nicaraguan flag was placed at the entrance to the Cathedral in Managua in support of the Bishops and the Catholic Church. Photo: EFE/Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – About a year ago, the Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, Silvio Baez, revealed in an interview on “Esta Semana” (This Week) the warning that Pope Francis made to the members of the Episcopal Conference, during a meeting at the Vatican. Take into account, warned Francis, that if the Church of Nicaragua maintains its commitment to the people, denouncing injustice and telling the truth, it will also be the object of “espionage, persecution and martyrdom.”

These prophetic words were amply proven after April 18th of this year when the bishops and the clergy, without any ambiguity, sided with the victims of the repression unleashed by Ortega. Their demands for justice and early elections to achieve a negotiated political solution to the crisis and avoid a new massacre were violently rejected by the regime. And since then, the bishops and the Church have been the subjected to physical and verbal aggressions, harassment and state intimidation, which includes profanation and armed attacks on several temples.

The latest campaign of attacks unleashed against Monsignor Silvio Baez represents a new chapter in the moral bankruptcy of the dictatorship, in its persecution against the Catholic Church. What’s new isn’t that they criminalize the opinions of the bishops on the civic protest, but the orchestration of a campaign whose danger should not be underestimated.

Commander Ortega has gone so far as to blame the bishops for the crimes and misdeeds that he himself perpetrated, and for which, sooner or later, he will be held accountable before justice, when this dark period of impunity ends.

They call the bishops “murderers,” but the IACHR of the OAS, the UN High Commissioner, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented the massacre that has been carried out by the State, and its highest authorities are the main ones responsible for ordering and directing these murders.

They accuse the bishops of promoting a “coup” for demanding the right to civic protest, but the first violator of the Constitution, the promoter of electoral fraud, the one who demolished institutions, and the author of the only coup d’état against the democratic State has been Ortega, with the complicity of his magistrates—of his political operators in the different powers of the State.

And at the height of immorality, the Ortega-Murillo campaign now attributes to Bishops Baez and Alvarez crimes and abuses against children, when in Nicaragua everybody knows the types of crimes that have been repeatedly committed by the “Supreme” leader and which remain in impunity.

Bishops Silvio Baez and Rolando Alvarez do not need other citizens to give faith of their integrity, because it is sustained in the testimony of their lives dedicated to the people of God and to the Church. However, we have the moral and political obligation to defend their physical integrity and the values they represent, because if these attacks are not stopped immediately, they will lead to an escalation not only against the bishops, but against the entire Church.

Baez and Alvarez represent a symbol of coherence and belligerence of the Episcopal Conference. By obliterating them, they pretend to kill the message and the messenger. When the official campaign points out targets for hatred and generates fanaticism against the bishops, it means that they are creating conditions to justify the worst attacks against the Church. That is the way it happened in El Salvador, 38 years ago with the assassination of Monsignor Romero—now declared Saint Romero of America by the Pope—whose murder by the death squads of D’Abuisson was preceded by political lynching.

In this Nicaragua which still breathes in the midst of the pain of repression, we cannot and we must not tolerate impassibly an aggression with this level of potential danger. To defend the Episcopal Conference is also to defend the right of truth and justice, on which the future of a Nicaragua in peace and democracy is based. If the prophetic voice of the bishops is extinguished, the entire country would be subjected to the regime of terror. Whereas, if the truth of the bishops continues to resist and challenge authoritarian power, hope for a peaceful change will remain.