Nicaragua’s Catholic president is persecuting members of his own religion
Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega is persecuting members of his own religion.
Ortega is Catholic, yet it is the official position of theUS Commission on International Religious Freedom that Nicaragua’s government, “has taken harsher measures against Catholic-affiliated organizations such as shutting down charities and expelling their workers, stripping universities of funding and legal status, shutting down news media, and eliminating non-governmental organizations.”
Ortega’s actions are being monitored by many groups, including the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Congress, co-chaired by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.
“He has so far departed from basic decency,” Smith said in an interview with SAN.
Smith compared Ortega to Chinese President Xi Jingping and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
“There’s just a malevolence there, a hatred of people,” Smith added.
Ortega’s regime has shut down at least 26 private universities and 54 news outlets.
In August, a Nicaraguan court ordered the Ortega government to take control of a Jesuit run university. They ruled the school was a center for terrorism.
Ortega went to that university before joining the junta, his children went there too.
According to Aljazeera, Ortega once said of the church in a televised speech “everything is imposed. It’s a perfect dictatorship. It’s a perfect tyranny.”
“If they are going to be democratic, let them start with Catholics voting for the pope, for cardinals, for bishops.”
Ortega also said he doesn’t feel represented in the church as a Catholic and as a Christian.
On February 10, 2023, Bishop Rolando Alvarez was sentenced to 26 years in prison for criticizing religious freedom conditions in the country. He declined to be exiled to the United States. Smith asked Ortega to let him meet with Bishop Alvarez in person so he can perform a welfare check.
If the meeting happens, it wouldn’t be Smith’s first time in the country. Smith met with Ortega in 1984 along with other members of Congress including
Frank Wolf and Tony Hall.
The delegation raised human rights concerns, specifically about torture. The group then had a suspicious experience after Ortega served them tea.
“The three of us that drank it got deathly sick. So I’m sure he drugged it or did something. You know, for two weeks, I was doubled over, as were my colleagues,” Smith said.
The State Department says the Ortega regime has allowed corruption and impunity to reign.
The Biden administration imposed sanctions on the state-owned mining company after it said Ortega stole the 2021 election. But Smith wants more.
“Shut him down. No economic trade, nothing.” Smith said. “How else you reach a guy that is destroying his own people?”