The Catholic Church in Nicaragua denounced that, for unknown reasons, the police arrested a priest on Sunday, another step in the escalation of tension between the religious institution and the government of Daniel Ortega,
The diocese of Siuna, which serves the parishes of the northern Caribbean of Nicaragua, reported on social networks the arrest of “Óscar Benavidez, pastor of the parish Espíritu Santo de Mulukukú”, one of the municipalities of the Autonomous Region of the northern Caribbean.
“We do not know the causes or motives for his detention, we hope that the authorities will keep us informed,” the bishopric demanded.
The independent Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) indicated on Twitter that it learned “through different sources” that the parish priest Benavidez “was taken from his vehicle and taken in a patrol car to an unknown destination”.
Neither the police nor the government have so far confirmed or denied the information.
The diocese of Siuna was one of the first to express solidarity with the situation of the bishop of Matagalpa (north), Rolando Álvarez, who the police have prevented from leaving the archbishop’s residence and have been holding him there along with 10 other people since August 4.
Alvarez, 55, had denounced days earlier the closure by the authorities of five Catholic radio stations, demanding that the government respect religious “freedom”.
Following his confinement, police reported that Alvarez’s diocese is under investigation for attempting to “organize violent groups” and inciting “hatred” to “destabilize” the country.
Alvarez is a critic of the Ortega government and a member of the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference (CEN), a body which expressed solidarity with Alvarez on August 7.
Ortega, in power since 2007, accuses the bishops of supporting the 2018 opposition protests. For his government, these were a failed coup plotted by the opposition with Washington’s support.
Prior to the November 2021 general elections, in which Ortega was elected for a fourth consecutive term, the government accused more than forty opponents of plotting to overthrow him. All were arrested and prosecuted. Among them were seven presidential aspirants.