NICARAGUA, Maria Fischer, with material from AICA.org.ar •
The Nicaraguan government, which is pursuing a policy of general repression in the Central American country, released 222 of the country’s 245 political prisoners on Thursday, February 9th, without first notifying their families. They were immediately flown out of the country on a plane that landed in Washington. Among them are several priests, opposition leaders, and some student leaders, as well as the mother of A.L. (name known to the editor) of the Schoenstatt Family Movement in Managua, Nicaragua, Cristiana Chamorro, a former presidential candidate. —
“I want to give glory and honor to God for the miracle of freedom. I can confirm that I am in contact with the U.S. State Department. They confirmed to me in a phone call this morning that the release of the political prisoners has been achieved and that they have been sent to Washington by private plane. They will arrive at Dulles Airport late this morning or this afternoon. I hope all our relatives will be there. This is a new moment for the future of our country. Let’s hope that we will have a Nicaragua for all,” said Berta Valle, wife of former presidential candidate Felix Maradiaga, in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El País.
The group of deportees also includes priests Oscar Benavidez Dávila, 50, pastor of the Espíritu Santo parish in Molokuku; Ramiro Reynaldo Tijerino Chávez, also 50, rector of the Juan Pablo II University; Sadiel Antonio Eugarrios Cano, 35, former vicar of the Matagalpa Cathedral; and José Luis Díaz Cruz, 33, current vicar of the Matagalpa Cathedral.
Also present were Deacon Raúl Antonio Vega González (27), seminarians Darvin Esteylin Leiva Mendoza (19) and Melkin Antonio Centeno Sequeira (23), and photographer Sergio José Cárdenas Flores (32).
These women shed tears in the shrine in the face of the miracle
The relatives and compatriots in Costa Rica also speak of a “miracle”. “We are facing a miracle that is the result of so many prayers. We will go to the Shrine to thank God for his mercy,” said H.L. (name withheld). At the Shrine, every day for the past six months, during the noon Mass, prayers have been offered for an end to the harassment and persecution of the Church in Nicaragua and for the release of the young political prisoners. That’s why many Nicaraguans consider it a miracle. “Many of these women have shed tears in the Shrine in face of the miracle.”
Exiled and deprived of their rights
The Nicaraguan government’s decision states that it will “expel those convicted of various crimes that violate the legal and constitutional order, threaten the Nicaraguan state and society, and violate the supreme interest of the nation.
It also states that the expulsion will be carried out “to protect peace, national security, public order, health, public morals, the rights of citizens and the freedoms of others.
Bishop Alvarez remains in jail
Meanwhile, the bishop of the diocese of Matagalpa and apostolic administrator of the diocese of Estelí, Rolando José Álvarez, refused to be expelled from the country and continues to be held in the Nicaraguan prison of La Modelo in Tipitapa.
One day after refusing to leave Nicaragua to be among the 222 political prisoners released by Daniel Ortega’s regime and sent to Washington, Bishop Rolando Álvarez was strongly condemned by the Central American country’s judicial authorities. The Ortega-controlled Nicaraguan judiciary has imposed more than 26 years in prison for a series of crimes, including “treason,” “undermining national integrity,” and “spreading false news. The regime has taken action against the bishop, depriving him of all political rights and stripping him of his Nicaraguan citizenship.
“Release them, I will pay for their punishment,” Bishop Álvarez said, according to Catholic sources.
Two other priests, Manuel García and José Urbina, who belong to the clergy of the diocese of Granada, also remain in detention.
In a letter dated Wednesday, February 8, the President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (COMECE), Cardinal Jean-Claude Cardinal Hollerich, expressed his concern about the situation of the Church in Nicaragua “and the persecution to which our Church and some of its members in that country have recently been subjected, especially our brother Bishop Rolando Álvarez”.
“We add our voice to those crying out against the injustice suffered by our brothers in Nicaragua and we call for their immediate release,” urged the Bishops of the European Union through COMECE.
Bishop Rolando José Álvarez wears the Unity Cross as a pectoral.
Let us pray together with the Schoenstatters of Nicaragua in the Shrine of San José for the freedom of all political prisoners in Nicaragua, for those released and exiled, and for their families.
Original: Spanish, 11.02.2023. Translation: Maria Fischer @schoenstatt.org