Ecclesiastical and diplomatic sources quoted by the Nicaraguan press assure that the Catholic Bishop Rolando Álvarez, sentenced to 26 years in prison, would have been released after negotiations between the Government of Daniel Ortega, the Vatican and the Episcopal Conference of the Central American country. Álvarez, one of the most critical religious of the repression of the regime in his country, was imprisoned last February on alleged charges of “conspiracy against national sovereignty and propagation of false news” after refusing to be deported to the United States along with others 222 political prisoners.
A possible turning point in the prolonged repression of the Government of Nicaragua against the Catholic Church.
Bishop Rolando Álvarez was reportedly removed from La Modelo prison – where he had been held since last February to serve a 26-year prison sentence – on the night of Monday, July 3. Subsequently, the religious would have been placed under the protection of the Episcopal Conference of his country, according to several diplomatic and ecclesiastical sources cited by the newspaper ‘Confidencial’.
The release would have taken place after negotiations between the Government, the Vatican and the Episcopal Conference. Discussions between the parties would now center around the alleged exile of the bishop to Rome, said human rights activist Bianca Jagger.
Likewise, the opponent and former politician Félix Madariaga pointed to a probable departure from the country of the bishop. “It has been unofficially mentioned, by credible and well-informed sources, that Monsignor Rolando Álvarez could be sent out of Nicaragua in the next few hours, probably tomorrow. It is confirmed that he is no longer in the La Modelo detention center, ”he stressed through his Twitter account.
However, according to diplomatic sources cited by the EFE news agency, the bishop would have been returned to prison for refusing to leave the country once released. An extreme that adds more confusion about the whereabouts of the religious.
Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, for his part, expressed that the news about the release of his companion is “pure speculation” and assured that he was never released: “He is right there,” he warned.
It has been unofficially mentioned, by credible and well-informed sources, that Monsignor Rolando Álvarez could be sent out of Nicaragua in the next few hours, probably tomorrow. It is confirmed that he is no longer in the La Modelo detention center.
— Felix Maradiaga (@maradiaga) July 4, 2023
In the midst of the different theories about the whereabouts of the religious, his alleged exile arouses special attention, given that the bishop strongly opposed being removed from his country as the Ortega government forced him to do last February, a fact that Pope Francis described as as an act of courage and that cost him a harsh sentence, as well as the withdrawal of his nationality.
Persecution and sentence: Álvarez, the bishop stood up to the Ortega regime
The Catholic Church has become one of the main targets of the repression of a regime described by many as a “dictatorship” and to which Álvarez has raised his voice.
Although the Catholic bishop, one of the government’s fiercest critics, had been under house arrest since last year, his legal situation worsened in February 2023.
On August 19, 2022, Álvarez was abruptly detained by the Police who broke into the Matagalpa Episcopal Curia, in the center of the country, after two weeks of being prevented from leaving the place, surrounded by a large group of agents, what was described by several civil organizations as a “kidnapping”.
His arrest occurred days after Álvarez denounced the closure by the authorities of five Catholic radio stations and demanded that the Government respect religious “freedom”, while the authorities indicated that the Bishop’s Diocese was being investigated for trying to “organize violent groups”. and incite “hate” to “destabilize the State of Nicaragua.”
On December 13 of that same year, Managua decreed his house arrest after accusing him of “for the crimes of conspiracy to undermine national integrity and propagation of false news through information and communication technologies to the detriment of the Nicaraguan State and society.”
All in the midst of his criticism of the repressive measures of the Government not only against the Catholic Church, but also against civil society and anyone who dares to contradict the positions of the man who has been in power for more than 27 years, 16 of them consecutively.
But the nightmare was just beginning. In February 2023, he was sentenced to 26 years in prison and sent to a maximum security cell in La Modelo, a prison known as “el infiernillo” due to its sweltering temperatures, small space, and unsanitary conditions, as former detainees have described at that time. place.
His crime? Refusing to board the so-called exile flight, which would take him along with 222 other political prisoners to the United States, without warning them that they would be stateless during the journey, since in addition to forcing them to leave their nation, the Ortega government ordered their removal of their nationality.
Although Álvarez chose to remain confined in his country, his Nicaraguan citizenship was also withdrawn.
After knowing his potential release on July 5, a source quoted by the local press indicated that if he again refused to expatriate he could be returned to prison.
With Reuters and local media